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** Cc n’cst pas dans les possibility, c’est dans Thomme meme qu’il 
faut ctudiier I’homme : il nc 8*agit pas dMmaginer ce qu’il auroit pO 
ou du fairc, mais de rccardcr cc QU*il fait.'*— De Rrosses. 






Phinted in U.S.A. 

[Rights ^Translation and Reproduction resorted] 


The present volumes, -uniform with the previbus volume of 
‘ Researches into the Early History of Mankind ’ (ist Ed. 
1865 ; 2nd Ed. 1870), carry on the investigation of Culture 
into other branches of thought and belief, art and custom. 
During the past six years I have taken occasion to bring 
tentatively before the public some of the principal points 
of new evidence and argument here advanced. The doctrine 
of survival in culture, the bearinf' of directly-expressive 
language and the invention of numerals on the problem of 
early civilization, the place of myth in the primitive histbry 
of the human mind, the development of the animistic 
philosophy of religion, and the origin of rites and cere- 
monies, have been discussed in various papers and lectures,* 
before being treated at large and with a fuller array 
facts in this work. 

The authorities for the facts stated in the text are fully 
specified in the foot-notes, which must also serve as my 
general acknowledgment of obligations to writers on ethno- 

^ Fortnightly Review : ‘ Origin of Language/ April 15, t866 ; * Religion 
of Savages/ August 15, 1866. Lectures at Royal Institution : * Traces of 
the Early Mental Condition of Man/ March 15, 1867 5 * Survival of Savage 
Thought in Mo(;^crn Civilization/ April 23, 1869. Lecture at University 
College, London ; * Spiritualistic Philosophy of the Lower Races of Mankind/ 
May 8, 1S69. Paper read at British Association, Nottingham, 1866 : ‘ Phe- 
nomena of Civilization Traceable to a Rudimcntal Origin among Savage 
Tribes,’ Paper read at Ethnological Society of London, April 26, 1870 : 
* Philosophy of Religion among the Lower Races of Mankind,’ &c,, See. 

graphy and kindred sciences, as well as to histories, 
.travellers, and missionaries. I will only mention apart 
two treatises bf which I have made especial use : the 
^ Mensch in der Gesehichte,* by Professor Bastian, of Berlin, 
and the * Anthropologie der Naturvblker,' by the late 
Professor Waitz, of Marburg. 

In discussing problems so complex as those of the de- 
velopment of civilization, it is* not enough to put forward 
theories accompanied by a few illustrative examples.. The 
statement of the facts must form'the staple of the argument, 
and the limit of needful detail is only reached when each 
group so displays its general law, that fresh cases come to 
range themselves in their proper niches as new instances 
of an already established rule. Should it seem to any 
readers that my attempt to reach this limit sometimes leads 
to the heaping up of too cumbrous detail, I would point 
out that the theoretical novelty as well as the practical 
importance of many of the issues raised, make it most 
unadvisable to stint them of their full evidence. In the 
course of ten years chiefly spent in these researches, it has 
been my constant task to select the most instructive 
ethnological facts from the vast mass on record, and by 
lopping away unnecessary matter to reduce the data on 
each problem to what is indispensable for reasonable proof. 

E. B. T. 


March^ 1871 . 


Since the publication of this work in 1871, translations 
have appeared in German and Russian. In the present 
edition the form of page has been slightly altered, for 
convenience of re-isstie at once in England and America. 
The matter, however, remains substantially the same. A 
few passages have been amplified or altered for greater 
clearness, and on some points additional or improved 
evidence has been put in. Among the antljropologists 
whose published reviews or private communications have 
enabled me to correct or strengthen various points, I will 
only mention by name Professor Felix Liebrecht, of Li6ge, 
Mr. Clements R. Markham, Professor Calderwood, Mr. 
Ralston, and Mr. ^bastian Evans. 

It may have struck some readers as an omission, that ^in 
a work on civilization insisting so strenuously on a theory 
of development or evolution, mention should scarcely have 
been made of Mr. Darwin and Mr. Herbert Spencer, whose 
influence on the whole course of modem thought on such 
subjects should not be left without formal recognition. 
This absence of particular reference is accounted for by the 
present work, arranged on its own lines, coming scarcely 
into contact of detail with the previous works of these 
eminent philosophers. 

An objection made by several critics as to the accumula- 
tion of evidence in these volumes leads me to remark, with 
sincere gratifliq^tion, that this objection has in fact been 
balanced by solid advantage. The plan of collecting wide 
and minute evidence, so that readers may have actually 
before them the means of judging the theory put forward. 

has been justified by the reception of the book, even in 
.circles to whose views many of its arguments are strongly 
adverse, and- that in matters of . the first importance. 
••Writers of most various philosophical and theological 
schools now admit that the ethnological facts are real, 
'and vital, and have to be accounted for. It is not too 
much to say that a perceptible movement of public opinion 
has here justified the belief that the English mind, not 
readily swayed by rhetoric, moves freely under the pr«wcure 
of facts. 

E. B. T. 

September y 1873 . 


In this edition, while I have not found; it needfu' to alter 
the general argument, the new information which has 
become available during the last twenty years has made 
it necessary to insert further details of evidence, and to 
correct some few statements. For convenience of reference, 
the paging of the last edition is kept to. 

E. B. T. 

September^ 1891 . 


For ordinary purposes the present edition may be taken 
as substantially unchanged. In only a few passages 
noticeable alterations have been made, (se6 vol. i. p. 167, 
vocal tone ; vol. ii. pp. 234-7, totemism). 

' E. B. T. 

October, 1903. 





Culture or Civilization — Its phenomena related according to definite 
Laws — Method of classification and discussion of the evidence — 
Connexion of successive stages of culture by Permanence, Modifica- 
tion, and Survival — Principal topics examined in the present work. i 



State of culture, industrial, intellectual, political, moral — Development 
of cult’urc in great measure corresponds with transition from savage 
through barbaric to civilized life — Progression-theory — Degenera- 
tion-theory — Development-theory includes boih,theoneas primary, 
the other as secondary —Historical and traditional evidence not 
available as to low stages of culture — Historical evidence as to prin- 
ciples of Degeneration — Ethnological evidence as to rise and fall in 
culture, from comparison of different levels of culture in branches 
of the same race — Extent of historically recorded antiquity of civili- 
zation — Prehistoric Archaeojogy extends the antiquity of man in low 
stages of civilization — Traces of Stone Age, corroborated by megali- 
thic structures, lake-dwellings, shell-heaps, burial-places, &c., prove 
original low culture throughout the world — Stages of Progressive 
Development in industrial arts . . . . .26 



Survival and Superstition — Children's games — Games of chance — Tra- 
ditional sayings — Nursery poems — Proverbs-f Riddles — Signifi- 
cance and survival in Customs : sneezing-formula, rite of foun- 
dation-sacrifice, prejudice against saving a drowning man . , 70 


SURVIVAL IN CULTURE (continued). paob 

Oc,cult Sciences— Magical powers cttributed by ’.ligher to lower races— 
"Magical processes based'on Association of Ideas — Omens — Augury, 
&c.-e~Onciromancy — Haruspication, Scapulimancy, Chiromancy, dtc. 

— Cartomancy, &c. — Rhab 4 omancy,Dactyliomancy,Coscinomancy, 

&c. — Astrology — Intellectual conditions accounting for the persist- 
ence of Magic — Survival passes into Revival — Witchcraft , o riglna - 
ting in savage culture, continues in barbaric civilization ; its decline 
in early mediaeval Europe followed by revival-j its practices and 
counter-practices belong to earlier culture — Spiritualism has its ^ 
source in early stages of culture, in close connexion with witchcraft — 
Spirit-rapping and Spirit-writing — Rising in the air — Performances 
of tied mediums — Practical bearing of tne study of Survival . . iii 



Element of directly expressive Sound in Language — Test by indepen- 
dent correspondence in distinct languages— Constituent processes of 
Language — Gesture — Expression of feature, &c 7 — Emotional Tone 
‘-fATtlculate sounds, vuwels deicriiiined by musical quality and 
pitch, consonants — Emphasis and Accent — Phrase-melody, Recita- 
tive — Sound-words — Interjections — Calls to Animals — Emotional 
Cries — Sense-words formed from Interjections — Affirmative and 
Negative particles, &c. . . . . . .160 



Imitative Words — Human actions named from sound — Animals’ names 
Trom cries. See. — Musical Instruments — Sounds reproduced — Words 
modified to adapt sound to sense — Reduplication — Graduation of 
vowels to express distance and difference — Children’s Language — 
Sound-words as related to Sense-words — Language an original 
product of the lower Culture ... . . 200 



Ideas of Number cJferived from experience — State of Arithmetic among 
uncivilized races — Small extent of Numeral-words among low tribes 
— Counting by fingers and toes — Hand-numerals show derivation of 
Verbal reckoning from Gesture-counting — Etymology of^Numerals 
— Quinary, Decimal, and Vigesimal notations of the world derived 
from counting on fingers and toes — Adoption of foreign Numeral- 
words — Evidence of development of Arithmetic from a low original 
level of Culture ....... 240 




Mythic fancy based, like otncr thought, on Experience — Mythology 
affords evidence for studying laws^Imagination — Change in public . 
opinion as to credibility of Myths — Myths rationalired into Allegory 
and History — Ethnological import and treatment of Myth — Myth 
to be studied in act^l existence and gro^ ih among modem savages 
and barbarians-^riginal sources of Myth — Early doctrines of 
general animation of Nature — Personification of Sun, Moon, and 
Stars ; Water-spout, Sand-pillar, Rainbow, Waterfall, Pestilence — 
Analogy worked into Myth and Metaphor — Myths of Rain, Thunder, 

&c. — Effect of Language in formation of Myth — Materia] Personifi- 
cation primary, Verba* Personification secondary— ‘Grammatical 
Gender, male and female, animate and inanimate, in relation to 
Myth — Proper names of objects in relation to Myth — Mental State 
proper to promote mythic imagination — Doctrine of Werewolves — 
Phantasy and Fancy ...... 273 


MYTHOLOGY [continued). 

Nature-myths, their origin, canon of interpretation, preservation of 
original sense and significant names — Nature-myths of upper savage 
races compared with related forms among barbaric and civilized 
nations — Heaven and Earth as Universal Parents — Sun and Moon : 
Eclipse and Sunset, as Hero or Maiden swallowed by Monster ; 
Rising of Sun from Sea and Descent to Under-World ; Jaws of Night 
and Death, Symplegades ; Eye of Heaven, Eye of Odin and the 
Graiae — Sun and Moon as mythic civilizers — Moon, her inconstancy, 
periodical death and revival — Stars, their generation — Constella- 
tions, their place in Mythology and Astronomy — Wind and Tempest 
• — Thunder — Earthquake , . . . . . ji6 


MYTHOLOGY {conitnued). 

Philosophical Myths : inferences become pseudo-histor>’ — Geological 
Myths— Effect M doctrine bf Miracles on Mythology — Magnetic 
Mountain — Myths of relation of Apes to Men by development or 
degeneration — Ethnological import of myths of Ape-man, Men with 
tails, Men of the woods — Myths of Error, Perversion, and Exaggera- 
tion : stories of Giants, Dwarfs, and Monstrous Tribes of men — 
Fanciful ex|ftanatory Myths — Myths attached to legendary or hii- 
torical Personages — Etymological Myths on names of places and 
persons — Eponymic Myths on names of tribes, nations, countries, 
dec. ; their ethnological import — Pragmatic Myths by realization of 
metaphors and ideas — Allegory — Beast-Fable — Conclusion . . 368 



Religious ideas generally appear among low races of Mankind — Negative 
V statements on this suf^jcct frequently mi^eading and n^akcn : 
many cases uncertain — Minimum definition of Religion-^^=1Doctrine 
of Spiritual Beings, here termed Animism — Animism treated as 
belonging to Natural Religion — Animism divided into two sections, 
the philosophy of Souls, and of other Spirits — Doctrine of Souls, 
its prevalence and definition among the lower races — Definition of 
Apparitional Soul or Ghost-Soul — It is a theoretical conception of 
primitive Philosophy, designed to account for phenomena now classed 
under Biology, especially Life and Death, Health and Disease, Sleep 
and Dreams, Nfrance and V^isions — Relation of Soul in name and * 
nature to Shadow, Blood, Breath — Division or Plurality of Souls — 

Soul cause of Life ; its restoration to body when supposed absent — 

Exit of Soul in Trances — Dreams and Visions : theory of exit of 
dreamcr*8 or Leer’s own soul •, theory of visits received by them from 
other souls — Ghost-Soul seen in Apparitions — Wraiths and Doubles 
— Soul has form of Body ; suffers mutilation with it — Voice of 
Ghost — Soul treated and defined as of Material Substance ; this 
appears to be the original doctrine — Transmission of Souls to 
service in future life by Funeral Sacrifice of wives, attendants, &c. 

— Souls of Animals — Their transmission by Funeral Sacrifice — 

Souls of Plants — Souls of Objects — Their transmission by Funeral 
Sacrifice — Relation of Doctrine of Object-Souls to Epicurean theory 
of Ideas — Historical development of Doctrine of Souls, from the 
lithereal Soul of primitive Biology to the Immaterial Soul of 
modern Theology . . . . *4*7 




Culture or Civilization — Its phenomena related according to definite Laws 
— Method of classification and discussion of the evidence — Connexion 
of successive stages of culture by Permanence, Modification, and 
Survival — Principal topics examined in the present work. 

• « 

Culture or Civilization, taken in its wide ethnographic 
sense, is that complex whole which includes knowledge, 
belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities 
and habits acquired by man as a member of society. The 
condition of culture among the various societies of mankind, 
in so far as it is capable of being investigated on general 
principles, is a subject apt for the study of laws of human 
thought and action. On the one hand, the uniformity 
which so largely pervades civilization may be ascribed, in 
great jneasure, to the uniform action of uniform causes : 
while on the other hand its various grades may be regarded 
as stages of development or evolution, each the outcome of 
previous history, and about to do its proper p^ in shaping 
the history of the future. To the investigation of these 
two great principles in several departments of ethnography, 
with especial consideration of the civilization of the lower 
tribes as related to the civilization of th^ higher nations, 
the present volumes are devoted. 

Our modem investigators in'l^ sciences of inorganic 
nature are foremost to recognize, l»th within and without 
their special fields Of work, the unitjrmf nature, the fixity of 
it? laws, the definite sequence of caaie and effect through 
which every fact depends on what has gone before it, and 
apts upon what is to come after it. They grasp firmly the 
Pythagorean doctrine of pervading order in the universal 
Kosmos. They affirm, with Aristotle, that nature is not 
full of incoherent episodes, like a bad tragedy. They agree 
with Leibnitz in what he calls ‘ my axiom, that nat”re 
never acts by'leaps (la nature n'agit'’jamais par saut),’ as 
well as in his 'great principle, commonly little employed, 
that nothing happens without sufficient reason.' Nor 
again, in studying the structure and habits of plants and 
animals, or in investigating the lower functions even of 
man, are these leading ideas unacknowledged. But when 
we come to talk of the higher processes of human feeling 
and action, of thought and language, knowledge and art, 
a change appears in the prevalent tone 'of opinion. The 
world at large is scarcely prepared to accept the general 
stud^ of human life as a branch of natural science, and to 
carry out, in a large sense, the poet’s injunction^ to ' Ac- 
count for moral as for natural things.’ To many educated 
minds there seems something presumptuous and repulsive 
in the view that the history of mankind is part and parcel 
of the history of nature, that our thoughts, wills, and 
actions accord with laws as definite as those which govern 
the motion of waves, the combination of acids and bases, 
and the growth of plants and animals. • 

The main reasons of this state of the popular judgment 
are not far to seek. There are many who would willingly 
accept a science of history if placed before them with sub-’ 
stantial definiteness of principle and evidence, but who not 
unreasonably reject the systems offered to them, as falling 
too far short of a scientific standard. Through resistance 
such as this, real •knowledge always sooner or later makes 
its way, while the habit of opposition to novelty does such 

excellent service against the invasions of speculative dog- 
matism, that we may sometimes even wish it were stronger * 
than it is. But other obstacles to the ir^vesfigation of laws 
of human nature arise from considerations of metaphysics 
and theology. The popular notion of free human will in- 
volves not only freedom to act in accordance with motive, 
but also a power of breaking loose* from continuity an& 
acting without cause, — a combination which may be roughly 
illustrated by the simile of a balance sometimes acting in 
thg___usual way, but also possessed of the faculty of turning 
by itself without or against its weights. Thts view of an 
, anomalous action of the will, which it need hardly be said is 
incompatible with scientific argument, subsists as an opinion 
patent or latent in men’s minds, and strongly affecting their 
theoretic views of history, though it is not, as a rule, 
brought prominently forward in systematic reasoning. 
Indeed the definition of human will, as strictly according 
with motive, is the only possible scientific basis in such en- 
quiries. * Happily, 4t is not needful to add here yet another 
to the list of dissertations on supernatural intervention and 
natural causation, on liberty, predestination, and accounta- 
bility. We may hasten to escape from the regions of trans- 
cendental philosophy and theology, to start on a more hope- 
ful journey over more practicable ground. None will deny 
that, as each man knows by the evidence of his own con- 
sciousness, definite and natural cause does, to a great 
extent, determine human action. Then, keeping aside 
from considerations of extra-natural interference and cause- 
less spontaneity, let us take this admitted existence of 
natural cause and effect as our standing-ground, and travel 
on it so far as it will bear us. It is on this same basis 
that physiccil science pursues, with ever-increasing success, 
its quest of laws of nature. Nor need this restriction 
hamper the scientific study of human life, in w’hich the 
real difficulties are the practical ones of enormous com- 
plexity of evidence, and imperfection of methods of obser- 

Now it appears that this view of human will and conduct 
as subject to definite law, is indeed recognised and acted 
upon by the very people who oppose it when stated in 
the abstract as a general principle, and who then complain 
t^at it annihilates man*s free will, destroys his sense of per- 
sonal responsibility, and degrades him to a soulless machine. 
He who will say these things will nevertheless pass much of 
his own life in studying the motives which lead to human 
action, seeking to attain his wishes through them, framing 
in his mind theories of personal character, reckoning what 
are likely to be the effects of new .combinations, and giving 
to his reasoning the crowning character of true scientific , 
enquiry, by t^ing it for granted that in so far as his 
calculation turns out wrong, either his evidence must have 
been false or incomplete, or his judgment upon it unsound. 
Such a one will sum up the experience of years spent in 
complex relations with society, by declaring his p>ersuasion 
that there is a reason for everything in life, and that where 
events look unaccountable, the rule is to wait and watch in 
hope that the key to the problem may some day be found. 
Thi^ man's observation may have been as narrow as his in- 
ferences are crude and prejudiced, but nevertheless he has 
been an inductive philosopher ' more than forty years with- 
out knowing it.' He has practically acknowledged definite 
law^s of human thought and action, and has simply thrown 
out of account in his owm studies of life the w'hole fabric 
of motiveless will and uncaused spontaneity. It is assumed 
here that they should be just so thrown out of account in 
wider studies, and that the true philosophy of history lies 
in extending and improving the methods of the plain people 
who form their judgments upon facts, and check them 
upon new facts. Whether the doctrine be wholly or but 
partly true, it accepts the very condition under w^hich we 
search for new knowledge in the lessons o| experience, 
and in a word the whole course of our rational life is based 
upon it. 

' One event is always the son of another, and we must 

never forget the parentage/ was a remark made by a 
Bechuana chief to Casalis the African jnissionary. Thus 
at all times historians,. so far as they have ^med at being 
more than mere chroniclers, have ‘done* their best to show* 
not merely succession, but connexion, among the events 
upon their lecord. Moreover, they have striven to elicit* 
general principles of human action, and by these t6 explain 
particular events, stating expressly or taking tacitly for 
granted the existencebf a philosophy of history. Should any 
one^deny the possibility of thus establishing his^cical laws, 
the answer is ready with* which Boswell in such a case 
fumed on Johnson : * Then, sir, you would reduce all 
history to no better than an almanack.' That i\evertheless 
the labours of so many eminent thinkers should have as yet 
brought history only to the threshold of science, need cause 
no wonder to those who consider the bewildering complexity 
of the problems which come before the general historian. 
The evidence from which he is to draw his conclusions is at 
once so multifarious and so doubtful, that a full and distinct 
view of its bearing on a particular question is hardly toJbe 
attained, and thus the temptation becomes all but irre- 
sistible to^garble it in support of some rough and ready 
theory of the course of events. The philosophy of history 
at large, explaining the past and predicting the future phe- 
nomena of man's life in the world by reference to general 
laws, is in fact a subject with which, in the present state of 
knowledge, even genius aided by wide research seems but 
hardly able to cope. Yet there are departments of it which, 
though* difficult enough, seem comparatively accessible. If 
the field of enquiry be narrowed from History as a whole 
to that branch of it which is here called Culture, the 
history, not of tribes or nations, but of the condition of 
knowledge, rel^ion, art, custom, and the hke among them, 
the task of investigation proves to lie within far more 
moderate compass. We suffer still from the same kind of 
difficulties which beset the wider argument* but they are 
much diminished. The evidence is no longer so wildly 

1.— 9 

THJb' SSC;fliWV.£, ur 

heterogeneous, but wBy be wore siwply classified and com- 
pared, while the power of getting rid of extraneous matter, 
and treating each issue on its o\yn proper set of facts, 
'•makes close reasoning on the whole more available than in 
general history. This may appear from a brief preliminary 
• examination of the problem, how the phenomena of Culture 
' may be classified and arranged, stage by stage, in a probable 
order of evolution. 

Surveyed in a broad view* the character and habit of 
mankinds once display that similarity and consistency of 
phenomena which led the Italian proverb-maker to declare 
that ‘all the world is one country,’ ‘tutto il mondo 6 
paese.’ Tp general likeness in human nature on the one 
hand, and to general likeness in the circumstances of life on 
the other, this similarity and consistency may no doubt be 
traced, and they may be studied with especial fitness in 
comparing races near the same grade of civilization. Little 
respect need be had in such comparisons for date, in history 
or for place on the map ; the ancient Swiss lake-dweller may 
b^set beside the mediaeval Aztec, and the Ojibwa of North 
America beside the Zulu of South Africa. As Dr. Johnson 
contemptuously said when he had read about Patagonians 
and South Sea Islanders in Hawkesworth's Voyages, ' one 
set of savages is like another.’ How true a generalization 
this really is, any Ethnological Museum may show. Examine 
for instance the edged and pointed instruments in such a 
collection ; the inventory includes hatchet, adze, chisel, 
knife, saw, scraper, awl, needle, spear and arrow-head, and 
of these most or all belong with only differences of detail to 
races the most various. So it is with savage occupations ; 
the wood-chopping, fishing with net and line, shooting ^d 
spearing game, fire-making, cooking, twisting cord and 
plaiting baskets, rep>eat themselves with ^onderful uni- 
formity in the museum shelves which illustrate the life of 
the lower races from Kamchatka to Tierra del Fuego, and 
from Dahome \o Hawaii. Even when it comes to comparing 
barbarous hordes with civilized nations, the consideration 

thrusts itself upon our minds, how far item after item of the 
life of the lower races passes into analogous proceedings of 
the higher, in forms noi too far changed to recognized, 
and sometimes hardly changed at all Look at the modent 
European peasant using his hatchet and his hoe, see his 
food boiling or roasting over the log-hre, observe the exact 
place which beer holds in his calculation of happiness, hear 
his tale of the ghost in the nearest haunted house, and of 
the farmer's niece who was bewitched with knots in her 
inside till she fell into fits and died. If we cheose out in 
this way things which have altered little in a long course of 
centuries, we may draw a picture where there shall be scarce 
a hand's breadth difference between an English.ploughman 
and a negro of Central Africa. These pages will be so 
crowded with evidence of such correspondence among man- 
kind, that there is no need to dw^ell upon its details here, 
but it may be used at once to override a problem which 
would complicate the argument, namely, the question of 
race. For the present purpose it appears both possible and 
desirable to eliminate considerations of hereditary varieties 
or races of man, and to treat mankind as homogeneous in v 
nature, thTOtigh placed in different grades of civilization. 
The details of the enquiry will, I think, prove that stages ^ 
of culture may be compared without taking into account 
hoW far tribes who use the same implement, follow the 
same custom, or believe the same myth, may differ in 
their bodily configuration and the colour of their skin 
and hair. 

A first step in the study of civilization is to dissect it into 
details, and to classify these in their pro[>er groups. Thus, 
in examining weapons, they are to be classed under spear, 
club, sling, bow and arrow, and so forth ; among textile arts 
are to be ranged matting, netting, and several grades of 
making and w^eaving threads ; myths are divided under such 
headings as myths of sunrise and sunset , eclipse-myths, earth- 
quake-myths, local myths which account for the names of 
places by some fanciful tale, eponymic myths which account 

for the parentage of a tribe by turning its name into the 
name of an imaginary ancestor ; under rites and ceremonies 
occur such practices as the various kinds of sacrifice to the 
^osts of the dead and to other spiritual beings, the turning 
to the east in worship, the purification of ceremonial or 
moral uncleanness by means of water or fire. Such are a 
few miscellaneous examples from a list of himdreds, and 
the ethnographer's business is to classify such details with 
a view to making out their distribution in geography and 
history, and the relations which exist among them. What 
this task is like, may be almost perfectly illustrated by com- 
paring these details of culture with the species of plants and 
animals as studied by the naturalist. To the ethnographer 
the bow and arrow is a species, the habit of flattening 
children's skulls is a species, the practice of reckoning 
numbers by tens is a species. The geographical distribu- 
tion of these things, and their transmission from region to 
region, have to be studied as the naturalist studies the 
geography of his botanical and zoological species. Just as 
certain plants and animals are peculiar to certain districts, 
so it is with such instruments as the Australian boomerang, 
the Pol\mesian stick-and-groove for fire-making, the tiny 
bow and arrow used as a lancet or phlerne by tribes about 
the Isthmus of Panama, and in like manner with many an 
art, myth, or custom, found isolated in a particular field. 
Just as the catalogue of all the species of plants and animals 
of a district represents its Flora and Fauna, so the list of 
' all the items of the general life of a people represents that 
whole which we call its culture. And just as distant regions 
so often produce vegetables and animals which are analo- 
gous, though by no means identical, so it is with the details 
of the civilization of their inhabitants. How good a working 
analogy there really is between the diffusion of plants and 
animals and the diffusion of civilization, comes well into 
view when we notice how far the same causes have produced 
both at once. In district after district, the same causes 
which have introduced the cultivated plants and domesti- 

cated animals of civilization, have brought in with them a 
corresponding^ art and knowledge. The course of events 
which carried horses and wheat to America carried with 
them the use of the gun and the iron hatchet, while m " 
return the whole world received not only maize, potatoes, 
and turkeys, but the habit of tobacco-smoking and the 
sailor’s hammock. 

, It is a matter worthy of consideration, that the accounts 
of similar phenomena of culture, recurring in different parts 
of the world, actually supply incidental proof />f their own 
authenticity. Some yearS since, a question which brings 
*out this point was put to me by a great historian — ‘ How 
can a statement as to customs, myths, beliefs, &c., of a 
savage tribe be treated as evidence where it depends on the 
testimony of some traveller or missionary, who may be a 
superficial observer, more or less ignorant of the native 
language, a careless retailer of unsifted talk, a man preju- 
diced or. even wilfully deceitful ?’ This question is, indeed, 
one which every ethnographer ought to keep clearly and 
constantly before his mind. Of course he is bound to*, use 
his best judgment as to the trustworthiness of all authors 
he quotes, -and if possible to obtain several accounts to 
certify each point in each locality. But it is over and above 
these measure's of precaution that the test of recurrence 
comes in. If two independent visitors to different countries, 
say a medirieval Mohammedan in Tartary and a modern 
Englishman in Dahome, or a Jesuit missionary in Brazil 
and a Wesleyan in the Fiji Islands, agree in describing some 
analogous art or rite or myth among the people they have 
visited, it becomes difficult or impossible to set down '^uch 
correspondence to accident or wilful fraud. A story by a 
bushranger in Australia may, perhaps, be objected to as a 
mistake or an invention, but did a Methodist minister in 
Guinea conspire with him to cheat the public by telling the 
same story there ? The possibility of intentional or unin- 
tentional mystification is often barred by such a state of 
things as that a similar statement is made in two remote 

lands, by two witnesses, of whom A lived a century before 
B, and B appears never to have heard of Ai How distant 
are the counties,' how wide apart the dates, how different 
^e creeds and characters of the o'oservers, in the catalogue 
of facts of civilization, needs no farther showing to any one 
who will even glance at the footnotes of the present work. 
And the more odd the statement, the less likely that several 
people in several places should have made it wrongly. This 
being so, it seems reasonable to judge that the statements 
are in the ijiain truly given, and that their close and regular 
coincidence is due to the cropping up of similar facts in 
various districts of culture. Now the most important facts 
of ethnography are vouched for in this way. Experience 
leads the student after a while to expect and find that the 
phenomena of culture, as resulting from widely-acting simi- 
lar causes, should recur again and again in the world. He even 
mistrusts isolated statements to which he knows of no paral- 
lel elsewhere, and waits for their genuineness to be ^hown by 
corresponding accounts from the other side of the earth, or 
the^other end of history. So strong, indeed, is this means 
of authentication, that the ethnographer in his library may 
sometimes presume to decide, not only whether a -particular 
explorer is a shrewd, honest observer, but also whether 
what he reports is conformable to the general rules of civili- 
zation. ‘ Non quis, sed quid.* 

To turn from the distribution of culture in different 
countries, to its diffusion within these countries. The 
quality of mankind which tends most to make the syste- 
matic study of civilization possible, is that remarkable tacit 
consensus or agreement which so far induces whole popula- 
tions to unite in the use of the same language, to follow the 
same religicm and customary law, to settle down to the same 
general level of art and knowledge. It is this ;'tate of things 
which makes it so far possible to ignore exceptional facts 
and to describe nations by a sort of general average. It is 
this state of thiitgs which makes it so far possible to represent 
immense masses of details by a few typical facts, while, these 

once settled, new cases recorded by new observers simply 
fall into their places to prove the soundness of the classifi- 
cation. There is found to be such regularity in the compo- 
sition of societies of men, that we can drop individual 
differences out of sight, and thus can generalize on the arts 
and opinions of whole nations, just as, when looking down 
upon an army from a hill, we forget the individual soldier, 
whom, in fact, we can scarce distinguish in the mass, while 
we see each regiment as an organized body, spreading or 
concentrating, moving in advance or in retreat. In some 
branches of the study of social laws it is now possible to call 
in the aid of statistics, and to set apart special actions of 
large mixed communities of men by means of taxgatherers* 
schedules, or the tables of the insurance office. Among 
modem arguments on the laws of human action, none have 
had a deeper effect than generalizations such as those of M. 
Quetelet, on the regularity, not only of such matters as 
average stature and the annual rates of birth and death, but 
of the recurrence/ year after year, of such obscure and 
seemingly incalculable products of national life as the 
numbers of murders and suicides, and the proportion of the 
very wx^apons of crime. Other striking cases are the annual 
regularity of persons killed accidentally in the London 
streets, and of undirected letters dropped into post-office 
letter-boxes. But in examining the culture of the lower 
races, far from having at command the measured arithmeti- 
cal facts of modern statistics, we may have to judge of the 
condition of tribes from the imperfect accounts supplied by 
travellers or missionaries, or even to reason upon relics of 
prehistoric races of whose very names and languages we 
are hopx?lessly ignorant. Now these may seem at the first 
glance sadly indefinite and unpromising materials for 
scientific enquiry. But in fact they are neither indefinite 
nor unpromising, but give evidence that is good and definite 
so far as it goes. They are data w'hich, for the distinct w’ay 
in which they severally denote the condition of the tribe 
they belong to, will actually bear comparison with the 

statistician's returns. The fact is that a stone arrow-head, 
a carved club, an idol, a grave-mound whpre slaves 
property have b6en buried for the use of the dead an 
giccount of a sorcerer 'sprites in making rain, a t'.'ole of 
numerals, the conjugation of a verb, are things which each 
express the state of a people as to one particular point 
, of culture, as truly as the tabulated numbers of deaths 
by poison, and of chests of tea imported, express in a differ- 
ent way other partial results of the general life of a whole 

That a whole nation should have a special dress, special 
tools and weapons, special laws of marriage and property, 
special moral and religious doctrines, is a remarkable fact, 
which we notice so little because we have lived all our lives 
in the midst of it. It is with such general qualities of 
organized bodies of men that ethnography has especially to 
deal. Yet, while generalizing on the culture of a tribe or 
nation, and setting aside the peculiarities of the individuals 
composing it as unimportant to the main result, we must 
be careful not to forget what makes up this main result. 
There are people so intent on the separate life of indi- 
viduals that they cannot grasp a notion of the action of a 
community as a whole — such an observer, incapable of a 
wide view of society, is aptly described in the saying that 
he ' cannot see the forest for the trees.' But, on the other 
hand, the philosopher may be so intent upon his general 
laws of society as to neglect the individual actors of whom 
that society is made up, and of him it may be said that 
he cannot see the trees for the forest. We know how arts, 
customs, and ideas are shaped among ourselves by the com- 
bined actions of many individuals, of which actions both 
motive and effect often come quite distinctly within our 
view. The history of an invention, an opinior^, a ceremony, 
is a history of suggestion and modification, encouragement 
and opposition , personal gain and party pre j udice , and the i n- 
dividuals concerned act each according to his own motives, 
as determined by his character and circumstances. Thus 

sometimes we watch individuals acting for their own ends 
with little thought of their effect on society at large, and 
sometimes we have to study movements -of national life 
as a whole, where the iftdividuals co-gperating in them are 
utterly beyond our observation. But seeing that collective 
social action is the mere resultant of many individual 
actions, it is clear that these two methods of enquiry, if 
rightly followed, must be absolutely consistent. 

In studying both the recurrence of special habits or ideas 
in several districts, and their prevalence within jeach district, 
there come before us eveo-reiterated proofs of regular causa- 
tion producing the phenomena of human life, and of laws 
of maintenance and diffusion according to which these phe- 
nomena settle into permanent standard conditions of society, 
at definite stages of culture. But, while giving full import- 
ance to the evidence bearing on these standard conditions 
of society, let us be careful to avoid a pitfall which may 
entrap the unwary student. Of course the opinions and 
habits belonging ^n common to masses of mankind are to 
a great extent the results of sound judgment and practical 
wisdom. But to a great extent it is not so. That many 
numerous societies of men should have believed in the 
influence of the evil eye and the existence of a firmament, 
should have sacrificed slaves and goods to the ghosts of the 
departed, should have handed down traditions of giants 
slaying monsters and men turning into beasts — all this is 
ground for holding that such ideas were indeed produced in 
men’s minds by efficient causes, but it is not ground for 
holding that the rites in question are profitable, the beliefs 
sound, and the history authentic. This may seem at the 
first glance a truism, but, in fact, it is the denial of a fallacy 
which deeply affects the minds of all but a small criticaii 
minority of|mankind. Popularly, what eveiy'body says 
must be true, what everybody does must be right — ‘ Quod 
ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est, hoc 
est vere proprieque Catholicum ’ — and soiorth. There are 
various topics, especially in history, law, philosophy, and 

theology, where even the educated people we live among 
can hardly be brought to see that the cause why men do 
hold an opinion, dr practise a custom, is by no means 
n^essarily a reason why they ought to do so. Now collec- 
tions of ethnographic evidence bringing so prominently into 
view the agreement of immense multitudes of men as to 
certain traditions, beliefs, and usages, are peculiarly liable 
to be thus improperly used in direct defence of these insti- 
tutions themselves, even old barbaric Jtations being polled 
to maintain^their opinions against what are called modern 
ideas. As it has more than once happened to myself to 
find my collections of traditions and beliefs thus set up to 
prove their own objective truth, without proper examination 
of the grounds on which they were actually received, I take 
this occasion of remarking that the same line of argument 
will serve equally well to demonstrate, by the strong and 
wide consent of nations, that the earth is flat, and night- 
mare the visit of a demon. 

It being showm that the details of Culture are capable of 
being classified in a great number of ethnographic groups of 
arts, beliefs, customs, and the rest, the consideration comes 
next how far the facts arranged in these groups are produced 
by evolution from one another. It need hardly be pointed 
out that the groups in question, though held together each 
by a common character, are by no means accurately defined. 
To take up again the natural history illustration, it may be 
said that they are species which tend to run w'idely into 
varieties. And when it comes to the question what relations 
some of these groups bear to others, it is plain that the 
student of the habits of mankind has a great advantage over 
the student of the species of plants and animals. Among 
naturedists k is an open question w'hether a theory of 
development from species to species is a rec( rd of transi- 
tions which actually took place, or a mere ideal scheme 
serviceable in the classification of species whose origin was 
really independetit. But among ethnographers there is no 
such question as to the possibility of species of implements 

or habits or beliefs being developed one out of another, for 
development in Culture is recognized by our most familiar 
knowledge. Mechanical invention supplies apt examples of 
the kind of development which a‘ffect§ civilization at large. 
In the history of fire-arms, the clumsy wheel-lock, in which 
a notched steel wheel revolved by means of a spring against 
a piece of pyrites till a spark caught the priming, led to the 
invention of the more serviceable flint-lock, of which a few 
still hang in the kftchens of our farm-houses for the boys 
to shoot small birds with at Christmas ; the^,flint-lock in 
time passed by modificatton into the percussion-lock, which 
is just now changing its old-fashioned arrangement to be 
adapted from muzzle-loading to breech-loading. The 
mediaeval astrolabe passed into the quadrant, now discarded 
in its turn by the seaman, who uses the more delicate 
sextant, and so it is through the history of one art and 
instrument after another. Such examples of progression 
are known to us as direct history, but so thoroughly is this 
notion of development at home in our minds, that by means 
of it we reconstruct lost history without scruple, trustiiig to 
general knowledge of the principles of human thought and 
action as a guide in putting the facts in their prop>er order. 
Whether chronicle speaks or is silent on the point, no one 
comparing a long-bow and a cross-bow would doubt that 
the cross-bow was a development arising from the simpler 
instrument. So among the fire-drills for igniting by 
friction, it seems clear on th<‘ face of the matter that the 
drill worked by a cord or bow is a later improvement on the 
clum^^ier primitive instrument twirled between the hands. 
That instructive class of specimens which antiquaries 
sometimes discover, bronze celts modelled on the heavy 
type of the stone hatchet, are scarcely explicable except as 
first steps i| the transition from the Stone Age to the 
Bronze Age, to be followed soon by the next stage of 
progress, in which it is discovered that the new material is 
suited to a handier and less wasteful pattern. And thus, 
in the other branches of our history, there will come again 

and again into view series of facts which may be consis- 
tently arranged as having- followed one another in a 
particular order of development, but which will hardly bear 
behg turned round and made to follow in reversed order. 
Such for instance are the facts I have here brought forward 
in a chapter on the Art of Counting, which tend to prove 
that as to this point of culture at least, savage tribes 
reached their position by learning and not by unlearning, 
by elevation from a lower rather than by degradation from 
a higher sta^^e. 

Among evidence aiding us to tiace the course which the 
civilization of the world has actually followed, is that great 
class of facts to denote which I have found it convenient 
to introduce the term ‘ survivals.’ These arc processes, 
customs, opinions, and so forth, which have been carried on 
by force of habit into a new state of society different from 
that in which they had their original home, and they thus 
remain as proofs and examples of an older condition of cul- 
ture out of which a newer has been evolved. Thus, I know 
an old Somersetshire woman whose hand-loom dates from 
the time before the introduction of the ’ flying shuttle,' 
which new-fangled appliance she has never even learnt to 
use, and I have seen her throw her shuttle from hand to 
hand in true classic fashion ; this old woman is not a 
century behind her times, but she is a case of survival. 
Such examples often lead us back to the habits of hundreds 
and even thousands of years ago. The ordeal of the Key 
and Bible, still in use, is a survival ; the Midsummer bonfire 
is a survival ; the Breton peasants’ All Souls’ supper for 
the spirits of the dead is a survival. The simple keeping 
up of ancient habits is only one part of the transition 
from old into new and changing times. The serious 
business of ancient society may be seen to ‘5nk into the 
sport of later generations, and its serious belief to linger 
on in nursery folk-lore, while superseded habits of old-world 
life may be modified into new-world forms still powerful for 
good and evil. Sometimes old thoughts and practices will 

burst out afresh, to the amazement of a world that thought 
them long since dead or dying ; here survival passes into 
revival, as has lately happened in so remarkable a way in 
the history of modem' spiritualism, .a subject full of in- 
struction from the ethnographer's point of view. The study 
of the principles of survival has, indeed, no small practical 
importance, for most of what we call superstition is in- 
cluded within survival, and in this way lies open to the attack 
of its deadliest enemy, a reasonable explanation. Insigni- 
ficant, moreover, as multitudes of the facts of. survival are 
in themselves, their kudy is so effective for tracing the 
course of the historical development through which alone it 
is possible to understand their meaning, that it becomes 
a vital point of ethnographic research to gain the clearest 
possible insight into their nature. This importance must 
justify the detail here devoted to an examination of survival, 
on the evidence of such games, popular sayings, customs^ 
superstitions, and the like, £is may serve well to bring into 
view the manner of its operation. 

Progress, degradation, survival, revival, modification, are 
all modes of the connexion that binds together the complex 
network of civilization. It needs but a glance into the 
trivial details of our own daily life to set us thinking how 
far we are really its originators, and how far but the 
trknsmitters and modifiers of the results of long past ages, 
looking round the rooms we live in, we may try here how 
far he who only knows his own time can be capable of 
rightly comprehending even that. Here is the ‘honeysuckle’ 
of Assyria, there the fleur-de-lis of Anjou, a cornice with a 
Greek border runs round the ceiling, the style of Louis XIV . 
and its parent the Renaissance share the looking-glass 
between theyn. Transformed, shifted, or mutilated, such 
elements oflart still carry their history plainly stamped 
upon them ; and if the history yet farther behind is less easy 
to read, we are not to say that because we cannot clearly 
discern it there is therefore no history there. It is thus 
even with the fashion of the clothes men wear. The 

ridiculous little tails of the German postilion’s coat show 
'of themselves how^ they came to dwindle to such absurd 
rudiments ; but the English clergyman s bands no longer 
so convey their history to' the eye, ‘and look unaccountable 
enough till one has seen the intermediate stages through 
which they came down from the more serviceable wide 
collars, such as Milton wears in his portrait, and which 
gave their name to the ' band-box ' they used to be kept 
in. In fact, the books of costume, showing how one 
garment grew or shrank by gradual stages and passed into 
-- another, illustrate with much forc& and clearness the nature 
of the change and growth, revival and decay, which go on 
from year to year in more important matters of life. In 
books, again, we see each writer not for and by himself, but 
occupying his proper place in history ; we look through 
each philosopher, mathematician, chemist, poet, into the 
background of his education, — through Leibnitz into Des- 
cartes, through Dalton into Priestley, through Milton into 
Homer. The study of language has, perhaps, dune more 
thaivany other in removing from our \new of human thought 
and action the ideas of chance and arbitrary invention, and 
in substituting for them a theory of development by the 
co-operation of individual men, through processes ever 
reasonable and intelligible where the facts are fully known. 
Rudimentary as the science of culture still is, the symptoms 
are becoming very strong that even what seem its most 
spontaneous and motiveless phenomena will, nevertheless, 
be shown to come within the range of distinct cause and 
effect as certainly as the facts of mechanics. What would 
be popularly thought more indefinite and uncontrolled than 
the products of the imagination in myths and fables ? Yet 
any systematic investigation of mythology, orv the basis of 
a wide collection of evidence, will show plainlty enough in 
such efforts of fancy at once a development from stage to 
stage, and a production of uniformity of result from uni- 
formity of cause. Here, as elsewhere, causeless spontaneity 
is seen to recede farther and farther into shelter within the 

dark precincts of ignorance ; like chance, that still holds its 
place among the vulgar as a real cause of events otherwise 
unaccountable, while to educated men it has long con- 
sciously meant nothing but this ignorance itself. It js 
only when men fail to see the line of connexion in events, 
that they are prone to fall upon the notions of arbitrary 
impulses, causeless freaks, chance and nonsense and in- 
definite unaccountability. If childish games, purposeless 
customs, absurd superstitions, are set down as spontaneous 
because no one can say exactly how they came to be, the 
assertion may remind us of the like effect that the eccentric 
habits of the wild rice-plant had on the philosophy of a 
Red Indian tribe, othcru’ise disposed to see in the harmony 
of nature the effects of one controlling personal will. The 
Great Spirit, said these Sioux theologians, made all 
things except the wild rice ; but the w^ild rice came by 

' Miin.' said Wilhelm von Humboldt, ‘ever connects 
on from what lies at hand (der Mensch kniipft immer an 
Vorhandenes an),' The notion of the continuity of cVili- 
zation contained in this maxim is no barren philosophic 
principle, but is at once made practical by the consideration 
that they who wish to understand their own lives ought to 
know the stages through which their opinions and habits 
have become wliat they are. Auguste Comte scarcely over- 
stated the necessity of this study of development when he 
declared at the beginning of his ‘ Positive Philosophy’ that 
‘ no conception can be understood except through its 
history,’ and his phrase will bear extension to culture at 
large. To exptxt to look modern life in the face and com- 
prehend it by mere inspection, is a philosophy whose weak- 
ness can easily be tested. Imagine any one explaining the 
trivial saying, ‘ a little bird told me,’ without knowing of 
the old belief in the language of birds and beasts, to which 
Dr. Dasent, in the introduction to the Norse Tales, so 
reasonably traces its origin. Attempts to explain by the 
light of reason things which want the light of history to 

show their meaning, may be instanced from Blackstone’s 
Commentaries. To Blackstone’s mind, the very right of the 
commoner to turn his beast out to' graze on the common, 
finds its origin and explartation in the feudal system. ' For, 
when lords of manors granted out parcels of land to tenants, 
for services either done or to be done, these tenants could 
not plough or manure the land without beasts ; these beasts 
could not be sustained without pasture ; and pasture could 
not be had but in the lord’s wastes, and on the uninclosed 
fallow grounds of themselves and the other tenants. The 
law therefore annexed this right of common, as inseparably 
incident, to the grant of the lands ; and this was the original 
of common appendant,’ &c.‘ Now though there is nothing 
irrational in this explanation, it does not agree at all with 
the Teutonic land-law which prevailed in England long 
before the Norman Conquest, and of which the remains have 
never wholly disappeared. In the old village-community 
even the arable land, lying in the great common fields 
which may still be traced in our country, had not yet passed 
into) separate property, while the pasturage in the fadlows 
and stubbles and on the waste belonged to the householders 
in common. Since those da)^, the change from communal 
to individual ownership has mostly transformed this old- 
world system, but the right which the peasant enjoys of 
pasturing his cattle on the common still remains, not as 
a concession to feudal tenants, but as possessed by the 
commoners before the lord ever claimed the ownership of 
the waste. It is always unsafe to detach a custom from its 
hold on past events, treating it as an isolated fact to be 
simply disposed of by some plausible explanation. 

In carrying on the great task of rational ethnography, 
the investigation of the causes which have produced the 

^ BUckatone, ‘ Commentariea on the Laws of Englancif,’ bk. II., ch. 3. 
The above example replaces that given in former editions. Another 
example may be found in hU explanation of the origin of deodand, bk. I., 
ch. 8, as designed, in the blind days of popery, as an expiation for the 
souls of such as were snatched away by sudden death ; see below, p. 287. 
[Note to 3rd ed.] 

phenomena of culture, and of the laws to v/hich they are • 
subordinate, it is desirable to work out ^s systematically 
^as possible a scheme of evolution .of this culture along its 
many lines. In the following chapter, on the Development* 
of Culture, an attempt is made to sketch a theoretical 
course of civilization among mankind, such as apfx^ars on 
the whole most accordant with the evidence. By com- 
pating the various stages of civilization among races known 
to history, with the aid of archaeological inference from the 
remains of prehistoric tribes, it seems possible to judge in 
a rough way of an early general condition of man, which 
from our point of view is to be regarded as a primitive con- 
dition, w'hatever yet earlier state may in reality have lain 
behind it. This hypothetical primitive condition corre- 
sponds in a considerable degree to that of modern savage 
tribes, who, in spite of their difference and distance, have 
in common certain elements of civilization, which seem 
remains of an early state of the human race at large. If 
this hypothesis be tnie, then, notwithstanding the (\)n- 
tiniial interference of degeneration, the main tendency of 
culture from prim<eval up to modern times has been from 
savagcTy towards civilization. On the problem of this rela- 
tion of savage to civilized life, almost every one oi the 
thousands of facts discussed in the succeeding chapters has 
its direct bearing. Survival in Culture, placing all along 
the course of advancing civilization way-marks full of mean- 
ing to those who can di^cipher their signs, even now sets up 
in our midst primaeval monuments of barbaric thought and 
life. Its investigation tells strongly in favour of the view 
that the European may find among the Greenlanders or 
Maoris many a trait for reconstructing the picture of his 
own primitivefancestors. Next comes the problem of the 
Origin of Language. Obscure as many parts of this 
problem still remain, its clearer positions lie open to the 
investigation whether speech look its origib among man- 
kind in the savage state, and the result of the enquiry is 
that consistently with all known evidence, this may have 

• i. — c 

been the case. From the examination of the Art of Count- 
ing a far more cJefinite consequence is shown. It may be 
confidently asserted, that not only is this important art 
found in a rudimentary state among savage tribes, but that ' 
satisfactory evidence proves numeration to have been de- 
veloped by rational invention from this low stage up to that 
in which we ourselves possess it. The examination of 
Mythology contained in the first volume, is for the most 
part made from a special point of view^ on evidence col- 
lected for a special purpose, that of tracing the relation 
between the myths of savage tribes and their analogues 
among more civilized nations. The issue of such enquiry 
goes far to prove that the earliest myth-maker arose and 
flourished among savage hordes, setting on foot an art 
which his more cultured successors would carry on, till its 
results came to be fossilized in superstition, mistaken for 
history, shaped and draped in poetry, or cast aside as lying 

Nowhere, perhaps, are broad views of historical develop- 
nient more needed than in the study of religion. Notwith- 
standing all that has lx‘en written to make the world 
acquainted with the lower theologies, the popular ideas of 
their place in histca'y and their relation to the faiths of 
higher nations are still of the mediaeval typK\ It is wonder- 
ful to contrast some missionary journals with Max Muller s 
Essays, and to set the unappreciating hatred and ridicule 
that is la\ishcd by narrow^ hostile zeal on Brahmanism, 
Buddhism, Zoroastrism, besides the catholic sympathy with 
which deep and wide knowledge can survey those ancient 
and noble phases of man's religious consciousness; nor, 
because the religions of savage trilxs may be rude and 
primitive compared with the great Asiatic t|ystems, do they 
lie too low for interest and even for respect. The question 
really lies between understanding and misunderstanding 
them. Few ,who will give their minds to master the 
general principles of savage religion will ever again think 
it ridiculous, or the knowledge of it superfluous to the rest 

of mankind Far from its beliefs and practices being a* 
rubbish-heap of mfscelJaneous* folly, they are consistent 
and logical in so high a flegree as^ to begin, as soon as even 
roughly classified, to display the principles of their formi- 
tion and development ; and these principles prove to be 
essentially rational, though working in a mental* condition 
of intense and inveterate ignorance. . It is with a sense of 
attempting an investigation which bears very closely on the 
current theology of our own day, that I have set myself to 
examine systematically, among the lower races, the deve- 
lopment of Animism ; that is to say, the doctrine of souls 
and other spiritual beings in general. More than half of 
the present work is occupied with a mass of evidence from 
all regions of the world, displaying the nature and meaning 
of this great element of the Philosophy of Religion, and 
tracing its transmission, expansion, restriction, modifica- 
tion, along the course of history into the midst of our own 
modem •thought. , Nor are the questions of small practical 
moment which have to be raised in a similar attem]|t to 
trace the development of certain prominent Rites and (^re- 
monies — customs so full of instruction as to the inmost 
powers of religion, whose outward expression and practical 
result they are. 

In these investigations, however, made rather from an 
ethnographic than a theological point of view, there has 
seemed little nt^ed of entering into direct controversial 
argument, wliich indeed I have taken pains to avoid as far 
as possible. The connexion which runs through religion, 
from its rudest forms up to the status of an enlightened 
Christianity, may be conveniently treated of with little 
recourse to dogmatic theology. The rites of sacrifice and 
purification nfay be studied in their stages of development 
without entering into questions of their authority and value, 
nor does an examination of the successive phases of the 
world's belief in a future life demand a discussion of the 
arguments adduced for or against the doctrine itself. The 
ethnographic results may then be left as materials for 

professed theologians, and it will not perhaps be long before 
evidence so fraught with meaning shall take its legitimate 
place. To fall back once again on the analogy of natural 
history, the time may soon come when it will be thought as 
uiueasonable for a scientific student of theology not to have 
a competent acquaintance with the principles of the reli- 
gions of the lower races, as for a physiologist to look with 
the contempt of past centuries on evidence derived from 
the lower forms of life, deeming the structure of mere 
invertebrate creatures matter unworthy of his philosophic 

Not merely as a matter of curious research, but as an im- 
portant practical guide to the understanding of the present 
and the shaping of the future, the investigation into the 
origin and early development of civilization must be pushed 
on zealously. Every possible avenue of knowledge must be 
explored, every door tried to see if it is oj)en. No kind of 
evidence need be left untouched on the score of remoteness 
or complexity, of minuteness or triviality. The tendency 
of modem enquiry is more and more towards the conclusion 
that if law is anywhere, it is everywhere. To despair of 
what a conscientious collection and study of facts may lead 
to, and to declare any problem insoluble because difficult 
and far off, is distinctly to be on the wrong side in science ; 
and he who will choose a hopeless task may set himself to 
discover the limits of discovery. One remembers Comte 
starting in his account of astronomy with a remairk on the 
necessary limitation of our knowledge of the stars ; we con- 
ceive, he tells us, the possibility of determining their form, 
distance, size, and movement, whilst we should never by 
any method be able to study their chemical composition, 
their mineralogical structure, &c. Had t^re philosopher 
lived to see the application of spectrum analysis to this 
very problem, his proclamation of the dispiriting doctrine of 
neces.'sary ignorance would perhaps have been recanted in 
favour of a more hopeful view. And it seems to be with 
the philosophy of remote human life somewhat as with the 

study of the nature of the celestial bodies. The processes 
to be made out in the early stages of our mental evolution ‘ 
lie distant from us in time as the stars lie distant from us 
in space, but the laws of the universe are not limited with 
the direct observation of our senses. There is vast material 
to be used in our enquiry ; many workers are now busied 
in bringing this materi^ into shape, though little may 
have yet been done in proportion to Nvhat remains to do ; 
and already it seems not too much to say that the vague 
outlines of a philosophy of primaeval history are beginning 
to come within our view.* 



Stages of culture, industrial, intellectual,, political, moral — Development 
of culture in great measure corresponds with transition from savage 
through barbaric to civilized life — Progression-theory — Degeneration- 
theory — Development-theory includes both, the one as primary, the 
other as secondary* — Historical and traditional evidence not available 
as to low stages of culture — Historical evidence as to principles of 
Degeneration — Ethnological evidence as to rise and fall in culture 
from comparison of different levels of culture in branches of the 
same race — Extent of historically recorded antiquity of civilization — 
Prehistoric Archaeology extends the antiquity of man in low stages 
of civilization — Traces of Stone Age, corroborated by mcgalithic 
structures, lake dwellings, shell-heaps, burial-places, &c., prove 
original low culture throughout the world — Stages of Progressive 
Development in industrial arts. 

In taking up the problem of the development of culture as 
a branch of ethnological research, a first proceeding is to 
obtain a means of measurement. Seeking something like a 
definite line along which to reckon progression and retro- 
gression in civilisation, w^e may apparently find it best in 
the classification of real tribes and nations, past and present. 
Civilization actually existing among mankind in different 
grades, we are enabled to estimate and compare it by positive 
examples. The educated world of Europe and America 
practically settles a standard by simply placing its own 
nations at one end of the social series and savage tribes at 
the other, arranging the rest of mankind between these limits 
according as they correspond more closely to savage or to 
cultured life. The principal criteria of classification are 
the absence or presence, high or low development, of the 
industrial arts, especially metal-working, manufacture of 


implements and vessels, agriculture, architecture, &c., the 
extent of scientific knowledge, the definiteness of moral 
principles, the condition, of religious belief and ceremony, 
the degree of social and political organization, and so forth. ^ 
Thus, on the definite basis of compared facts, ethnographers 
are able to set up at least a rough scale of civilization. Few 
would dispute that the following races arc arranged rightly 
in order of culture : — Australian, Tahitian, Aztec, Chinese, 
Italian. By treating the development of civilization on this 
plain ethnographic basis, many difficulties may be avoided 
which have embarrassed* its discussion. This may be seen 
by a glance at the relation which theoretical principles of 
civilization bear to the transitions to be observed as matter 
of fact between the extremes of savage and cultured life. 

From an ideal point of view, civilization may be looked 
upon as the general improvement of mankind by higher 
organization of the individual and of society, to the end of 
promoting at once man's goodness, power, and happiness. 
This theoretical civflization does in no small measure cor- 
respond with actual civilization, as traced by comparVpg 
savagery with barbarism, and barbarism with modern edu- 
cated life. So far as we take into account only material 
and intellectual culture, this is especially true*. Acquaint- 
ance with the physical laws of the world, and the accom- 
panying power of adapting nature to man’s own ends, are, 
on the whole, lowest among savages, mean among barba- 
rians, and highest among modem educated nations. Thus 
a transition from the savage state to our own would he, 
practicxilly, that very progress of art and knowledge which 
is one main element in the develc»pinent of culture. 

But even those students who hold most strongly that the 
general course pi civilization, as measured along the scale 
of races from savages to ourselves, is progress towards the 
benefit of mankind, must admit many and manifold ex- 
ceptions. Industrial and intellectual culture by no means 
advances uniformly in all its branches, and in fact excellence 
in various of its details is often obtained under conditions 

which keep back culture as a whole. It is true that these 
. exceptions seldom swamp the general rule; and the English- 
man, admitting that he does not climb trees like the wild 
Australian, nor track game like the savage of the Brazilian 
forest, nor compete with the ancient Etruscan and the 
modern Chinese in delicacy of goldsmith's work and ivory 
carving, nor reach the classic Greek level of oratory and 
sculpture, may yet claim for himself a general condition 
above any of these races. But there actually have to be 
taken into account developments of science and art which 
tend directly against culture. To have learnt to give poison 
secretly and effectually, to have raised a corrupt literature 
to pestilent perfection, to have organized a successful 
scheme to arrest free enquiry and proscribe free expression, 
are works of knowledge and skill whose progress toward 
their goal has hardly conduced to the general good. Thus, 
even in comparing mental and artistic culture among several 
peoples, the balance of good and ill is not quite easy to 

I^not only knowledge and art, but at the same time 
moral and political excellence, be taken into consideration, 
it becomes yet harder to reckon on an ideal scale the 
advance or decline from stage to stage of culture. In fact, 
a combined intellectual and moral measure of human con- 
dition is an instrument w'hich no student has as yet learnt 
properly to handle. Even granting that intellectual, moral, 
and political life may, on a broad view, be seen to progress 
together, it is obvious that they are far from advancing with 
equal steps. It may be taken as man s rule of dutyun the 
world, that he shall strive to know as well as he can find 
out, and to do as well as he knows how. But the parting 
asunder of these two great principles, that^separation of 
intelligence from virtue which accounts for so much of the 
wrong-doing of mankind, is continually seen to happen in 
the great movements of civilization. As one conspicuous 
instance of what all history stands to prove, if we study 
the early ages of Christianity, we may see men with minds 

pervaded by the new religion of duty, holiness, and love, 
yet at the same time actually falling away in intellectual ' 
life, thus at once vigorously grasping one*half of civilization, 
and contemptuously caisting off the other. Whether in high 
ranges or in low of human life, it may be seen that advance 
of culture seldom results at once in unmixed good. Courage, 
honesty, generosity, are virtures which may suffer, at least 
for a time, by the development of a feense of value of life 
atid property. The savage who adopts something of foreign 
civilization too often loses his ruder virtues without gaining 
an equivalent. The white invader or colonist, though repre- 
senting on the whole a higher moral standard than the 
savage he improves or destroys, often represents his standard 
very ill, and at best can hardly claim to substitute a life 
stronger, nobler, and purer at every point than that which 
he suptTsedes. The onward movement from barbarism has 
dropped behind it more than one quality of barbaric char- 
acter which cultured modem men look back on with regret, 
and will even strive to regain by futile attempts to stop the 
course of history, and to restore the past in the midst olHhe 
present. So it is with social institutions. The slavery 
recognised by savage and barbarous races is preferable in 
kind to that which existed for centuries in late European 
colonies. The relation of the sexes among many savage 
tribes is more healthy than among the richer classes of the 
Mohammedan world. As a supreme authority of govern- 
ment, the savage councils of chiefs and elders compare 
favourably with the unbridled despotism under which so 
many%culturcd races have groaned. The Creek Indians, 
asked concerning their religion, replied that where agree- 
ment was not to be had, it was best to ‘ let every man 
paddle his cant^c his own way and after long ages of theo- 
logical strife and [Xirsecution, the modern world seems 
coming to think these savages not far wrong. 

Among accounts of savage life, it is not, indeed, uncom- 
mon to find details of admirable moral and social excellence. 
To take one prominent instance, Lieut. Bruijn Kops and 

Mr/ Wallace have described, among the rude Papuans of 
•the Eastern Archipelago, a habitual truthfulness, rightful- 
ness, and kindliness which it would be hard to match in 
t|ie general moral life of Persia ordndia, to say nothing of 
many a civilized European district.^ Such tribes may count 
as the ' blameless Ethiopians ' of the modem world, and 
from them an important lesson may be learnt. Ethno- 
graphers who seek in modern savages types of the remotely 
ancient human race at large, are bound by such examples 
to consider the rude life of primjeval man under favourable 
conditions to have been, in its measure, a good and happy 
life. On the other hand, the pictures drawn by some 
travellers of savagery as a kind of paradisiacal state may be 
taken too exclusively from the bright side. It is remarked 
as to these very Papuans, that Europeans whose intercourse 
with them has been hostile become so impressed with the 
wild-beast-like cunning of their attacks, as hardly to believe 
in their having feelings in common with civilized men. Our 
Polar explorers may well speak in kindly terms of the 
indrfetry, the honesty, the cheerful considerate politeness 
of the Esquimaux ; but it must be remembered that these 
rude people are on their best behaviour with foreigners, and 
that their character is apt to be foul and brutal where they 
have nothing to expect or fear. The Caribs are described 
as a cheerful, modest, courteous race, and so honest among 
themselves that if they missed an}i:hing out of a house they 
said quite naturally : ‘ There has been a Christian here.' 
Yet the malignant ferocity with which these estimable people 
tortured their prisoners of war with knife and fire-brand 
and red pepper, and then cooked and ate them in solemn 
debauch, gave fair reason for the name of Carib (Cannibal) 
to become the generic name of man-eaters, in European 
languages.* So when we read descriptions of the hospitality, 
the gentleness, the bravery, the deep religious feeling of the 

* G. W. Earl, ‘ Papuans/ p. 79 ; A. R. Wallace, ‘ Eastern Archipelago.' 

* Rochefort, * lies Antilles,’ pp. 400-480. 

North American Indians, we admit their claims to our 
. sincere admiration ; but we must not forget that they were 
hospitable literally to a fault, that their gentleness would 
pass with a flash of anger •into frenzy, t!iat their bravery 
was stained with cruel and treacherous malignity, that their 
religion expressed itself in absurd belief and useless cere- 
mony. The ideal savage of the i8th centuiy may be held 
up as a living reproof to vicious and frivolous London ; but 
in sober fact, a Lond6ner who should attempt to lead the 
atrocious life which the real savage may lead with impunity 
and even respect, would be a*criminal only allowed to follow 
his savage models during his short inter\^als out of gaol. 
Savage moral standards are real enough, but they are far 
looser and weaker than ours. We may, I think, apply the 
often-repeated comparison of savages to children as fairly 
to their moral as to their intellectual condition. The better 
savage social life seems in but unstable equilibrium, liable 
to be easily upset by a touch of distress,’ temptation, or 
violence, and then it*becomcs the worse savage life, which 
we know by so many dismal and hideous examples. Alto- 
gether, it may be admitted that some rude tribes lead a life 
to be envied by some barbarous races, and even by the 
outcasts of higher nations. But that any known savage 
tribe would not be improved by judicious^ civilization, is a 
proposition which no moralist w’ould dare to make ; while 
the general tenour of the evidence goes far to justify the 
view that on the w^hole the civilized man is not only wiser 
and more capable than the savage, but also better and 
happicr^and that the barbarian stands between. 

It miglit, f)erhap)s, seem practicable to compare the whole 
average of the civilization of two fx^oples, or of the same 
people in different ages, by reckoning each, item by item, 
to a sort of sum-total, and striking a balance between them, 
much as an appraiser compares the value of two stocks of 
merchandise, differ as they may both in quantity and 
quality. But the few remarks here made will have shown 
how loose must be the working-out of these rough-and-ready 

estimates of culture. In fact, much of the labour spent in 
investigating the progress and decline of civilization has 
been mis-spent, in premature attempts to treat that as a 
• whole which is as^yet only susceptible of divided study. 
The present comparatively narrow argument on the developi- 
ment of culture at any rate avoids this greatest perplexity. 
It takes cognizance principally of knowledge, art, and 
custom, and indeed only very partial cognizance within 
this field, the vast range of physical,' political, social, and 
, ethical considerations being left all but untouched. Its 
standard of reckoning progress and decline is not that of 
ideal good and evil, but of movement along a measured line 
from grade to grade of actual savagery, barbarism, and 
civilization. The thesis which I venture to sustain, within 
limits, is simply this, that the savage state in some measure 
■^represents an early condition of mankind, out of which the 
higher culture has gradually been developed or evolved, by 
processes still in regular operation as of old, the result 
showing that, on the whole, progress has far prevailed over 

On this proposition, the main tendency of human society 
during its long term of existence has been to pass from a 
savage to a civilized state.- Now all must admit a great 
'part of this assertion to be not only truth, but truLsm. 
Referred to direct history, a great section of it proves to 
belong not to the domain of speculation, but to that of posi- 
tive knowledge. It is mere matter of chronicle that modern 
civilization is a development of mediaeval civilization, which 
again is a development from civilization of the order repre- 
sented in Greece, Assyria, or Egypt. Thus the higher 
culture being clearly traced back to what may be called the 
middle culture, the question which remains is whether this 
middle culture may be traced back to the lower culture, 
that is, to savagery. To affirm this, is merely to assert 
that the same kind of development in culture which has 
gone on inside our range of knowledge has also gone on 
outside it, its course of proceeding being unaffected by our 

having or not having reporters present. If any one holds 
that human thought and action Were worl^d out in primae- 
val times according to laws essentially other than those of 
the modern world, it is for him to prove by valid evidence', 
this anomalous state of things, otherwise the doctrine of 
permanent principle will hold good, as in astronomy or 
geology. That the tendency of culture has been similar 
throughout the existence of human society, and that we 
may fairly judge from its known historic course what its 
prehistoric course may have been, is a theory clearly en- 
titled to precedence as a fundamental principle of ethno- 
graphic research. 

Gibbon in his * Roman Empire * expresses in a few 
vigorous sentences his theory of the course of culture, as 
from savagery upward, judged by the knowledge of nearly 
a century later, his remarks cannot, indeed, pass unques- 
tioned. Especially he seems to rely with misplaced con- 
fidence on traditions of archaic rudeness, to exaggerate the 
lowness of savage life, to underestimate the liability to decay 
of the ruder arts, and in his view of the effect of high on 
low civilization, to dwell too exclusively on the brighter side. 
But, on the whole, the great historian's judgment seems so 
substantially that of the unprejudiced modem student of 
the progressionist school, that I gladly quote the passage 
here at length, and take it as a text to represent the develop- 
ment theory of culture : — ‘ The discoveries of ancient and 
modem navigators, and the domestic history, or tradition, 
of the most enlightened nations, represent the human savage 
naked both in mind and body, and destitute of laws, of 
arts, of ideas, and almost of language. From this abject 
condition, perhaps the primitive and universal state of man, 
he has gradually arisen to command the animals, to fertilise 
the earth, to traverse the ocean, and to measure the heavens. 
His progress in the improvement and exercise of his mental 
and corporeal faculties has been irregular and various ; 
infinitely slow in the beginning, and increasing by degrees 
with redoubled velocity : ages of laborious ascent have been 


followed by a moment of rapid downfall ; and the several 
climates of the, globe have felt the vicissitudes of light 
and darkness. Yet the experience of four thousand years 
should enlarge our hopes, and diminish our apprehensions : 
we cannot determine to what height the human species may 
aspire in their advances towards perfection ; but it may 
safely be presumed, that no people, unless the face of nature 
is changed, will relapse into their original barbarism. The 
improvements of society may be viewed under a threefold 
aspect. I. The poet or philosopher illustrates his age and 
country by the efforts of a single mind ; but these superior 
powers of reason or fancy are rare and spontaneous produc- 
tions ; and the genius of Homer, or Cicero, or Newton, 
would excite less admiration, if they could be created by 
the will of a prince, or the lessons of a preceptor. 2. The 
benefits of law and policy, of trade and manufactures, of 
arts and sciences, are more solid and permanent ; and many 
individuals may be qualified, by education and discipline, to 
promote, in their respective stations, the interest of the 
community. But this general order is the effect of skill 
and labour ; and the complex machinery may be decayed by 
time, or injured by violence. 3. Fortunately for mankind, 
the more useful, or, at least, more necessary arts, can be 
performed without superior talents, or national subordina- 
tion ; without the powers of one, or the union of many. 
Each village, each family, each individual, must always 
possess both ability and inclination, to perpetuate the use 
of fire and of metals; the propagation and sejvice of 
domestic animals ; the methods of hunting and fishing ; the 
rudiments of navigation ; the imperfect cultivation of corn, 
or other nutritive grain ; and the simple practice of the me- 
chanic trades. Private genius and public fhdustry may be 
extirpated ; but these hardy plants survive the tempest, and 
strike an everlasting root into the most unfavourable soil. 
The splendid days of Augustus and Trajan were eclipsed 
by a cloud of ignorance ; and the barbarians subverted the 
laiws and palaces of Rome. But the scythe, the invention, or 



emblem of Saturn, still continued annually to mow the 
harvests of Italy; and the human feasts of Laestrigons 
have never been renewed on the coast of Campania. Since 
the first discovery of the arts, war, commerce, and religioiB 
zeal, have diffused, among the savages of the Old and New 
World, these inestimable gifts : they have been successively 
propagated ; they can never be lost.. We may therefore 
acquiesce in the pleasing conclusion, that every age of the 
world has increased, and still increases, the real wealth, 
the happiness, the knowledge, and perhaps the virtue, of 
the human race.' ^ 

This progression-theory of civilization may be contrasted 
with its rival, the degeneration-theory, in the dashing 
invective of Count Joseph de Maistrc, written toward the 
beginning of the 19 th century. ‘ Nous partons toujours,’ he 
says, ' de Thypothese banale que rhornme s'est 61ev6 gra- 
duellement de la barbaric* a la science et a la civilisation. 
C'est le r^ve favori.c'est lerreur-m^re, etcomme dit I'^ole 
le proto-pseudes de notre sidcle. Mais si les philosophes 
de ce malheureux siecle,avec Thorrible perversite que nous 
leur avons connue, et qui s'obstinent encore malgr 6 les 
avertissements qu'ils ont re^us, avaient poss^de de plus 
quelques-unes de ces connaissances qui ont du ne^essaire- 
ment appartenir aux premiers homines, &c.’ * The 
degeneration-theory, which this eloquent antagonist of 
‘ modem ideas ’ indeed states in an extreme shape, has 
received the sanction of men of great learning and ability. 
It has practically resolved itself into two assumptions, first, 
that the history of culture began with the appearance on 
earth of a seini-civilized race of men, and second, that from 
this stage culture has proceeded in two ways, backward to 
produce savages, and forw^ard to produce civilized men. 
The idea of the original condition of man being one of 
more or less high culture, must have a certain prominence 

' Gibbon, ‘ Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,’ ch. xxxviti. 

* De Maistre, ‘Soirees de St. P^tertbourg,’ vol. ii. p. 150. 


given to it on account of its considerable hold on public 
opinion. As to definite evidence, however, it does not 
seem to have any ethnological basis whatever. Indeed, I 
scarcely think that a stronger counter-persuasion could be 
used on an intelligent student inclined to the ordinary 
degeneration-theory than to induce him to examine criti- 
cally and impartially the arguments of the advocates on his 
own side. It must be borne in mind, however, that the 
grounds on which this theory has been held have generally 
been rather theological than ethnological. The strength 
of the position it has thus occupied may be well instanced 
from the theories adopted by two eminent French writers 
of the i8th century, which in a remarkable way piece 
together a belief in degeneration and an argument for pro- 
gression. De Brosses, whose whole intellectual nature 
turned to the progression-theory, argued that by studying 
what actually now happens ‘ we may trace men upward from 
the savage state to which the flood and dispersion had 
reduced them.'* And Goguet, holding that the pre- 
existing arts perished at the deluge, was thus left free to 
work out on the most thorough-going progressionist 
principles his theories of the invention of fire, cooking, 
agriculture, law, and so forth, among tribes thus reduced 
to a condition of low savagery.* At the present time it is 
not unusual for the origin of civilization to be treated as 
matter of dogmatic theology. It has happened to me more 
than once to be assured from the pulpit that the theories of 
ethnologists who consider man to have risen from, a low 
original condition are delusive fancies, it being revealed 
truth that man was originally in a high condition. Now as 
a matter of Biblical criticism it must be ren^embered that a 
large proportion of modem theologians are far from accept- 
ing such a dogma. But in investigating the problem of 
early civilization, the claim to ground scientific opinion upon 

* De BrosseS) ‘ Dieux Fetiches,’ p. 15 i ‘ Formation des Langues/ vol. i. 
p. 49 ; vol. ii. p. 32. 

2 Goguet, ‘ Originc des Lois, dcs Arts,* &c., vol. i. p. 88. 


a basis of revelation is in itself objectionable. It would 
be, I think, inexcusable if students who have seen in 
Astronomy and Geology the unhappy results of attempting 
.to base science on religion, should countenance a similar 
attempt in Ethnology. 

By long experience of the course of human society, the 
principle of development in culture has become so in- 
grained in our philosophy that ethnologists, of whatever 
school, hardly doubt but that, whether by progress or 
degradation, savagery and civilization are connected as 
lower and higher stages of one formation. As such, then, 
two principal theories claim to account for their relation. 
As to the first hypothesis, which takes savage life as in 
some sort representing an early human state whence higher 
states were, in time, developed, it has to be noticed that 
advocates of this progression -theory^ are apt to look back 
toward yet lower original conditions of mankind. It has 
been truly remarked that the modern naturalist's doctrine 
of progressive development has encouraged a train oi 
thought singularly accordant with the Epicurean theory of 
man’s early existence on earth, in a condition not far 
removed from that of the lower animals. On such a view, 
savage life itself would be a far advanced condition. If the 
advance of culture be regarded as taking place along one 
general line, then existing savagery^ stands directly inter- 
mediate between animal and civilized life ; if ah mg different 
lines, then sav^agery and civilization may be considered as 
at least jndirectly connected through their common origin. 
The method and evidence here employed are not, however, 
suitable for the discussion of this remoter part of the 
problem of civili^tion. Nor is it necessary to enquire how 
under this or any other theory, the savage state first came 
to be on earth. It is enough that, by some means or other 
it has actually come into existence ; and so far as it ma> 
serve as a guide in inferring an early condition of the 
human race at large, so far the argument takes the ver> 
practicable shape of a discussion turning rather on actua 

than imaginary states of society. The second hypothesis, 
which regards^ higher culture as original, and the savage 
condition as produced from it by a course of degeneration, 
at once cuts tl^ hard knot of the origin of culture. It 
takes for granted a supernatural interference, as where 
Archbishop Whately simply refers to miraculous revelation 
that condition above the level of barbarism which he con- 
siders to have been man's original state.' It may be inci- 
dentally remarked, however, that the doctrine of original 
civilization bestowed on man by divine intervention, by no 
means necessarily involves the view that this original civil- 
ization was at a high level. Its advocates are free to choose 
their starting-point of culture above, at, or below the savage 
condition, as may on the evidence seem to them most 

The two theories which thus account for the relation of 
savage to cultured life may be contrasted according to their 
main character, as the progression-theory and the degrada- 
tion-theory. Yet of course the progression-theory recog- 
nizes degradation, and the degradation-theory recognizes 
progression, as powerful influences in the course of culture. 
Under proper limitations the principles of both theories arc 
conformable to historical knowledge, which shows us, on 
the one hand, that the state of the higher nations was 
reached by progression from a lower state, and, on the 
other hand, that culture gained by progression may be lost 
by degradation. If in this enquiry we should be obliged to 
end in the dark, at any rate we need not begin there. 
History, taken as our guide in explaining the different stages 
of civilization, offers a theory based on actual experience. 
This is a development-theory, in winch both advance and 
relapse have their acknowledged placed. But so far as 
history is to be our criterion, progression is primary and 
degradation secondary ; culture must be gained before it 

' Whately, * Essay on the Origin of Civilisation,* in Miscellaneous 
Lectures, &c. His evidence is examined in detail in my ‘ Early History of 
Mankind,’ ch. vii. Sec also W. Cooke Taylor, * Natural History of Society.’ 


can be lost. Moreover, m striking a balance between the^ 
effects of forward and backward moveipent in civilization, 
it must be borne in mind how powerfully the diffusion of . 
culture acts in preserving the results of progress from tile 
attacks of degeneration. A progressive movement in culture 
spreads, and becomes independent of the fate of its origi- 
nators. What is produced in some limited district is dif- 
fused over a wider and wider area, where the process of 
effectual ‘ stamping out * becomes more and more difficult. 
Thus it is even possible for the habits and inventions of 
races long extinct to ren\ain as the common property of 
surviving nations ; and the destructive actions which make 
such havoc with the civilizations of particular districts fail 
to destroy the civilization of the world. 

The enquiry as to the relation of savagery to barbarism 
and semi-civilization lies almost entirely in prae-historic or 
extra-historic regions. This is of course an unfavourable 
condition, and must be frankly accepted. Direct history 
hardly tells anything of the changes of savage culture, 
except where in contact with and under the dominant 
influence of foreign civilization, a state of things which is 
little to our present purpyose. Periodical examinations of low 
races otherwise left isolated to work out their owm destinies, 
would be interesting evidence to the student of civilization 
if they could be made ; but unfortunately they cannot. 
The lower races, wanting documentary memorials, loose in 
preserving tradition, and ever ready to clothe myth in its 
shape, can seldom be trusted in their stories of long-past 
ages^ History is oral or w’ritten record w^hich can be 
satisfactorily traced into contact with the events it de- 
scribes ; and pfcrhapys no account of the course of culture in 
its low^er stages can satisfy this stringent criterion. Tradi- 
tions may be urged in support either of the progression- 
theory or of the degradation-theory. These traditions may 
be partly true, and must be partly imtrue ; bi)t whatever 
truth or untruth they may contain, there is such difficulty 
in separating man's recollection of what was from his specu- 



lation as to what might have been, that ethnology seems not 
likely to gain much by attempts to judge of early stages of 
civilization on a traditional basis*. The problem is one 
which has occupied the philosophic mind even in savage 
and barbaric life, and has been solved by speculations 
asserted as facts, and by traditions which are, in great 
measure, mere realized theories. The Chinese can show, 
with all due gravity, the records of their ancient dynasties 
and tell us how in old times their ancestors dwelt in caves, 
clothed themselves with leaves, and ate raw flesh, till, under 
such and such rulers, they were taught to build huts, 
prepare skins for garments, and make fire.^ Lucretius can 
describe to us, in his famous lines, the large-boned, hardy, 
lawless, primaeval race of man, living the roving life of the 
wild beasts which they overcame with stones and heavy 
clubs, devouring berries and acorns, ignorant as yet of fire, 
and agriculture, and the use of skins for clothing. From 
this state the Epicurean poet traces up the development of 
culture, beginning outside but ending inside the range of 
human memory.* To the same class belong those legends 
which, starting from an ancient savage state, describe its 
elevation by divine civilizers : this, which may be called 
the supernatural progression-theory, is exemplified in the 
familiar culture-traditions of Peru and Italy. 

But other minds, following a different ideal track from 
the present to the past, have seen in a far different shape 
the early stages of human life. Those men whose eyes are 
always turned to look back on the wisdom of the ancients, 
those who by a common confusion of thought ascribe to 
men of old the wisdom of old men, those who hold fast to 
some once-honoured scheme of life which n^tw schemes are 
superseding before their eyes, are apt to cArry back their 
thought of present degeneration into far-gone ages, till they 
reach a period of primaeval glory. The Parsi looks back to 
the happy rule of King Yima, when men and cattle were 
immortal, when water and trees never dried up and food 

* Goguet, vol. iii. p. 270. • Lucret. v. 923, Ac. ; acc Hor. Sat. i. 3. 


was inexhaustible, when there was no cold nor heat, no , 
envy nor old age.^ The Buddhist looks back to the age of 
glorious soaring beings who had no sin, no sex, no want of 
food, till the unhappy hour when, tasting a delicious scuni 
that formed upon the surface of the earth, they fell into 
evil, and in time became degraded to eat rice, to bear 
children, to build houses, to divide property, and to 
establish caste. In after ages, record preserves details of 
the continuing course of* degeneration. It was King 
Chetiya who told the first lie, and the citizens who heard of 
it, not knowing what a lie was, asked if it were white, black 
or blue. Men’s lives grew shorter and shorter, and it was 
King Maha Sdgara who, after a brief reign of 252,000 years, 
made the dismal discovery of the first grey hair.* 

Admitting the imperfection of the historical record as 
regards the lowest stages of culture, we must bear in mind 
that it tells both ways. Niebuhr, attacking the progression- 
ists of the i8th century, remarks that they have overlooked 
the fact ‘ that no single example can be brought forward of 
an actually savage people having independently become 
civilized.’ • Whately appropriated this remark, which indeed 
forms the kernel of his well-known Lecture on the Origin of 
Civilisation : ’ Facts are stubborn things,' he says, * and 
that no authenticated instance can be produced of savages 
that ever did emerge, unaided, from that state is no theory, 
but a statement, hitherto never disproved, of a matter of 
fact.' He uses this as an argument in support of his 
general conclusion, that man could not have risen indepen- 
dently from a savage to a civilized state, and that savages 
are degenerate descendants of civilized men.* But he omits 
to ask the counter-question, whether we find one recorded irS ^ 
tanceof a civilized people falling independently into a savage 

' ‘ Avesta/ trans. Spiegel & Bleeck, vol. ii. p. 50. 

• Hardy, ‘Manual of Budhisxn/ pp. 64, 128. 

3 Niebuhr, * Rdmische Get chichce,* part i. p. 88 : * Nur dai haben sic 
ilbersehen, dasz kein einziges Beyspiel von eincm wirklich vrilden Volk 
aufzuweiscn ist, welches frey zur Cultur dbergegangen wire.* 

* Whately, * Essay on Origin of Civilisation.' 



* state ? Any such record, direct and well vouched, would be 
of high interest to ethnologists, though, of course, it would 
not contradict the development-theory, for proving loss is 
nbt disproving previous gain. But where is such a record to 
be found ? The defect of historical evidence as to the transi- 
tion between savagery and higher culture is a two-sided fact, 
only half taken into Archbishop Whately's one-sided argu- 
ment. Fortunately the defect is by no means fatal. 
Though history may not account directly for the existence 
and explain the position of savages, it at least gives evidence 
which bears closely on the matter. Moreover, we are in 

/Various ways enabled to study the lower course of culture on 
evidence which cannot have been tampered with to support 
a theory. Old traditional lore, however untrustworthy as 
direct record of events, contains most faithful incidental 
descriptions of manners and customs ; archaeology displays 
old structures and buried relics of the remote past ; philo- 
logy brings out the undesigned history in language, which 
generation after generation have handed down without a 
thought of its having such significance ; the ethnological 
survey of the races of the world tells much ; the ethnogra- 
phical comparison of their condition tells more. 

Arrest and decline in civilization arc to be recognised as 
among the more frequent and powerful Generations of national 
life. That knowledge, arts, and institutions should decay in 
certain districts, that peoples once progressive should lag 
behind and be passed by advancing neighbours, that some- 
times even societies of men should recede into rudeness and 
misery — all these are phenomena with which modern history 
is familiar. In judging of the relation of the lower to the 
higher stages of civilization, it is essential tohain some idea 
how far it may have been affected by such^ degeneration. 
What kind of evidence can direct observation and history 
give as to the degradation of men from a civilized condition 
towards that of savagery ? In our great cities, the so-called 

* dangerous classes ' arc sunk in hideous misery and de- 
pravity. If we have to strike a balance between the 


Papuans of New Caledonia and the communities of Euro- 
pean beggars and thieves, we may sadly ac){:nowledge that 
we have in our midst something worse than savagery. But 
it is not savagery ; it is broten-dowfi civilization. Nega- 
tively, the inmates of a Whitechapel casual ward and of a 
Hottentot kraal agree in their want of the knowledge and 
virtue of the higher culture. But positively, their mental and 
moral characteristics are utterly different. Thus, the savage 
life is essentially devoted to gaining subsistence from nature, 
which is just what the proletarian life is not. Their rela- 
tions to civilized life — the oitfc of independence, the other 
of dependence — are absolutely opposite. To my mind the 
popular phrases about ' city savages ’ and ' street Arabs ' 
seem like comparing a ruined house to a builder’s yard. 
It is more to the purpose to notice how war and misrule, 
famine and pestilence, have again and again devastated coun- 
tries, reduced their population to miserable remnants, and 
lowered their levTl of civilization, and how the isolated life 
of wild country districts seems sometimes tending towards 
savagery. So far as we know, however, none of these 
causes have ever really reproduced a savage community. 
For an ancient account of degeneration under adverse cir- 
cumstances, Ovid’s mention of the unhappy colony of Tomi 
on the Black Sea is a case in point, though perhaps not 
to be taken too literally. Among its mixed Greek and 
barbaric population, hctrassed and carried off into slavery by 
the Sarmatian horsemen, much as the Persians till lately 
were by the Turkomans, the poet describes the neglect of 
the gardener’s craft, the decay of textile arts, the barbaric 
clothing of hides. 

' Nfc tamel hacc loca sunt ullo pretiosa metallo : 

Hostis ab agricola vix sinit ilia fodi. 

Purpura saepc tuos fulgcns praftexit amictus : 

Sed non Sarmatico tingitur ilia mari. 

Vcllcra dura ferunt pccudcs, ci Palladis uti 
Arte Tomltan* non didiccrc nurus. 

Fcmina pro lana Cerialia muncra frangit. 

Supposiloque gravcm vcrticc portat aquam. 

Non hie pampineis amidtur vitibus ulmua ; 

Nulla premunt ramoa pondcre poma auo. 

Tristia deformes pariunt absinthia campt, 

Terraque dc fructu quam sil amara docet.’ ^ 


‘ Cases of exceptionally low civilization in Europe may* 
perhaps be sometimes accounted for by degeneration of this 
kind. But they seem more often the relics of ancient un- 
changed barbarism. The evidence from wild parts of 
Ireland two or three centuries ago is interesting from ‘this 
point of view. Acts of Parliament were passed against the 
inveterate habits of fastening ploughs to the horses' tails, 
and of burning oats from the straw' to save the trouble of 
threshing. In the i8th century Ireland could still be thus 
described in satire : — 

‘ The Western isle renowned for bogt. 

For tories and for great wolf-dogs, 

For drawing hobbies by the tails, 

And threshing corn with fiery flails.’ * 

Fynes Moryson’s description of the wild or ‘ meere ’ Irish 
about 1600, is amazing. The very lords of them, he says, 
dwelt in poor clay houses, or cabins of boughs covered with 
turf. In many parts men as well as women had in very 
winter time but a linen rag about the loins and a woollen 
mantle on their bodies, so that it would turn a man's 
stomach to see an old woman in the morning before break- 
fast. He notices their habit of burning oats from the 
straw, and making cakes thereof. They had no tables, but 
set their meat on a bundle of grass. They feasted on fallen 
horses, and seethed pieces of beef and pork with Vhe un- 
washed entrails of beasts in a hollow tree, lapped in a raw 
cow s hide, and so set ov'^er the fire, and they drank milk 
warmed with a stone first cast into the fire.* Another 

1 Ovid. Ex Ponto, iii, 8; sec Crote, ‘ History of Greece,’ vol. xii. p. 641. 

* W. C. laylor, ‘ Nat. Hist, of Society,’ vol. i. p. 202. 

3 Fyncs Mor>8on, ‘Itinerary;’ London, 1617, part iii. p. 162, &c. ; J. 
Evans in ‘ Archaeologia,’ vol. xli. Sec description of hide-boiling, Ac., 
among the wild Irish, about 1550, in Andrew Boorde, ‘Introduction of 
Knowledge; ed. by F. J. Furnivall, Early English Text Soc. 1870. 

— km BARBAki C SURVIVAL. 45 

district remarkable for a barbaric simplicity of life is the 
Hebrides. Till of late years, there wer^ to be found there 
'In actual use earthen vessels, unglazed and made by hand 
without the potter's Wh^l, which might pass in a museum 
as indifferent specimens of savage manufacture. These 
' craggans ' are still made by an old woman at Barvas for 
sale as curiosities. Such a modem state of the potter's 
art in the Hebrides fits well with George Buchanan's state- 
ment in the i6th century- that the islanders used to boil 
meat in the beast's own paunch or hide.^ Early in the 
i8th century Martin mentions as prevalent there the ancient 
way of dressing com by burning it dexterously from the ear, 
which he notices to be a very quick process, thence called 
‘ graddan ' (Gaelic, quick).* Thus we see that the 

habit of burning out the grain, for which the ‘ meere Irish ' 
were reproached, was really the keeping up of an old Keltic 
art, not without its practical use. So the appearance in 
modern Keltic districts of other widespread arts of the lower 
culture — hide-boihng, like that of the Scythians in Herodo- 
tus, and stone-boiling, like that of the Assinaboins of North 
America — seems to fit not so well with degradation from a 
high as with survival from a low civilization. The Irish 
and the Hebrideans had been for ages under the influence 
of comparatively high civilization, which nevertheless may 
have left unaltered much of the older and ruder habit of the 

Instances of civilized men taking to a wild life in out- 
lying districts of the world, and ceasing to obtain or want 
the ippliances of civilization, give more distinct evidence of 
degradation. In connexion with this state of things takes 
place the neai|^st known approach to an independent dege- 
neration from a civilized to a savage state. This happens 
in mixed races, whose standard of civilization may be more 
or less below that of the higher race. The mutineers of the 

^ Buchanan, * Rerum Scoticarum Historia ; ’ Edinburgh, 1528, p, 7. Sec 
‘ Early History of Mankind,’ 2nd ed. p. 272. 

• Martin, * Description of Western Islands/ in Pinkerton, vol, iii. p. 639, 



Bounty, with their Polynesian wives, founded a small but 
not savage community on Pitcairn's Islands The mixed 
Portuguese and native races of the East Indies and 
Aftica lead a life below the European standard, but not a 
savage life.* The Gauchos of the South American Pampas, 
a mixed European and Indian race of equestrian herdsmen, 
are described as sitting about on ox-skulls, making broth in 
horns with hot cinders heaped round, living on meat with- 
out vegetables, and altogether leading a foul, brutal, 
comfortless, degenerate, but not savage life.* One step 
beyond this brings us to the cases of individual civilized 
men being absorbed in savage tribes and adopting the 
savage life, on which they exercise little influence for im- 
provement ; the children of these men may come distinctly 
under the category of savages. These cases of mixed 
breeds, however, do not show a low culture actually 
produced as the result of degeneration from a high one. 
Their theory is that, given a higher and a lower civilization 
existing among two races, a mixed race 'between the two 
may take to the lower or an intermediate condition. 

Degeneration probably operates even more actively in 
the lower than in the higher culture. Barbarous nations 
and savage hordes, with their less knowledge and scantier 
appliances, would seem peculiarly exposed to degrading 
influences. In Africa, for instance, there seems to have 
been in modem centuries a falling off in culture, probably 
due in a considerable degree to foreign influence. Mr. 
J. L. Wilson, contrasting the i6th and 17th century ac- 
counts of powerful negro kingdoms in West Africa \^^ith 
the present small communities, with little or no tradition 
of their forefathers' more extended political Organization, 
looks especially to the slave-trade as the deteriorating cause.* 

^ Barrow, ‘ Mutiny of the Bounty * ; W. Brodic, ‘ Pitcairn^t Island.* 

* Wallace, * Malay Archipelago,* vol. i. pp. 4Z, 471 ; vol. ii. pp. 11, 43, 
48 •, Lathann, ‘ Deter. Eth.,* vol. ii. pp. 492-5 ; D. and C. Livingttone, 

* Exp. to Zambesi/ p. 45. 

* Southey, * History of Brazil/ vol. iii. p. 422. 

* J. L. Wilson, * W. Afr./ p. 189. 


In South-East Africa, also, a comparatively high barbaric 
• culture, which we especially associate with, the old descrip- 
tions of the kingdom of Monomotapa, seems to have fallen 
.away, not counting the remarkable ruins of buildings of hewn 
stone fitted without mortar which indicate the intrusion of 
more civilized foreigners into the gold region ! ^ In North 
America, Father Charlevoix remarks of the Iroquois of the 
last century, that in old times they used to build their cabins 
better than other nations, and better than they do them- 
selves now ; they carved rude figures in relief on them ; but 
since in various expeditions* almost all their villages have 
been burnt, they have not taken the trouble to restore them 
in their old condition.* The degradation of the Cheyenne 
Indians is matter of history. Persecuted by their enemies 
the Sioux, and dislodged at last even from their fortified 
village, the heart of the tribe was broken. Their numbers 
were thinned, they no longer dared to establish themselves 
in a pennanent abode, they gave up the cultivation of the 
soil, and became a tribe of wandering hunters, with horses 
for their only valuable possession, w^hich every year they 
bartered for a supply of com, beans, pumpkins, and 
European merchandise, and then returned into the heart 
of the prairies.* When in the Rocky Mountains, Lord 
Milton and Dr, Cheadle came up>on an outlying fragment 
of the Shush wap race, without horses or dogs, sheltering 
themselves under rude temporary slants of bark or matting, 
falling year by year into lower misery, and rapidly dying 
out ; this is another example of the degeneration which 
no douf>t has lowered or destroyed many a savage people.* 
There are tribes who are the very outcasts of savage life. 
There is reason b) look upon the miserable Digger Indians 
of North America and the Bushmen of South Africa as 

* Waitz, ‘ Anthropologic/ vol. ii. p. 359, ice 91 ; Du Chaillu, * Aihango* 
land/ p. 116 ; T. H. Bent, * Ruined Citiei of Mathonaland.* 

* Charlevoix, * Nouvcllc France,’ vol. vi. p. 51. 

* Irving, ‘Astoria,’ vol. ii. ch. v. 

* Milton and Cheadle, ‘ North Wcit Paiiage by Land/ p. 241 ; Waiti, 
vol. iii. pp. 74-6. 

iilii iliiVJbL.Ul'MJKNT OF CULTURE 7 

the persecuted remnants of tribes who have seen happier 
days.^ The traditions of the lower races of their ances- 
tors' better life may sometimes be real recollections of a 
^not far distant past. The Algonquin Indians look back 
to old days as to a golden age when life was better than 
now, when they had better laws and leaders, and manners 
less rude.* And indeed, knowing what we do of their 
history, we may admit that they have cause to remember 
in misery happiness gone by. Well, too, might the rude 
Kamchadal declare that the world is growing worse and 
worse, that men are becoming- fewer and viler, and food 
scarcer, for the hunter, and the bear, and the reindeer are 
hurrying away from here to the happier life in the regions 
below.* It would be a valuable contribution to the study of 
civilization to have the action of decline and fall inves- 
tigated on a wider and more exact basis of evidence than 
has yet been attempted. The cases here stated are prob- 
ably but part of a long series which might be brought 
forward to prove degeneration in cultilire to have been, by 
no means indeed the primary cause of the existence of 
barbarism and savagery in the world, but a secondary 
action largely and deeply affecting the general develop- 
ment of civilization. It may perhaps give no unfair idea 
to compare degeneration of culture, both in its kind of 
operation and in its immense extent, to denudation in the 
geological history of the earth. 

In judging of the relations between savage and civilized 
Ufe, something may be learnt by glancing over the divisions 
of the human race. For this end the classification by 
families of languages may be conveniently used, if checked 
by the evidence of bodily characteristics, ^o doubt speech 
by itself is an insufficient guide in tracing national descent, 
as witness the extreme cases of Jews in England, and three- 
parts negro races in the West Indies, nevertheless speaking 

^ ‘Early History of Mankind/ p. 187. 

* Schoolcraft, ‘ Algic Res.,* vol. i. p. 50. 

• Steller, ‘ Kamuchatka,’ p. zya. 



Exi^lish as their mother-tongue. Still, under ordinary cir- 
cumstances, connexion of speech does indicate more or less 
connexion of ancestral race. As a guide iri tracing the 
. history of civilization, language giv^ still better evidence, 
for common language to a great extent involves common 
culture. The race dominant enough to maintain or impose 
its language, usually more or less maintains or imposes its 
civilization also. Thus the common descent of the lan- 
guages of Hindus, Greeks, and Teutons is no doubt due in 
great measure to common ancestry, but is still more closely 
bound up with a common k)cial and intellectual history, 
with what Professor Max Muller well calls their ‘ spiritual 
relationship.’ The wonderful permanence of language 
often enables us to detect among remotely ancient and 
distant tribes the traces of connected civilization. How, 
on such grounds, do savage and civilized tribes appear 
to stand related, within the \’urious groups of mankind 
connected historically by the possession of kindred 
languages ? 

The Semitic family, which represents one of the oldest 
known civilizations of the world, includes Arabs, Jews, 
Phoenicians, Syrians, &c., and has an earlier as well as a 
later connexion in North Africa. This family takes in some 
rude tribes, but none w^hich would be classed as savages. 
The Aryan family has existed in Asia and Europe certainly 
for many thousand years, and there are well-knowm and 
well-marked traces of its early barbaric condition, which has 
perhaps survived with least change among secluded tribes in 
the valleys of the Hindu Kush and Himalaya. There seems, 
again, no known case of any full Aryan tribe having become 
savage. The Gj^psies and other outcasts are, no doubt, 
partly Aryan in blood, but their degraded condition is not 
savagery. In India there are tribes Aryan by language, 
but whose physique is rather of indigenous type, and whose 
ancestry is mainly from indigenous stocks with more or less 
mixture of the dominant Hindu. Some tribes coming 
under this category, as among the Bhils and Kulis of the 


Bombay Presidency, speak dialects which are Hindi in 
vocabuJaiy at least, whether or not in grammatical struct ure, 
and yet the people themselves are lower in culture than 
some Hinduized nations who have retained their original 
Dravidian speech, the Tamils for instance. But these all 
appear to stand at higher stages of civilization than any 
wild forest tribes of the peninsula who can be reckoned as 
nearly savages ; all such are non-Aryan both in blood and 
speech.^ In Ceylon, however, we have the remarkable 
phenomenon of men leading a savage life while speaking an 
Aryan dialect. This is the wild part of the race of Veddas 
or ‘hunters,* of whom a remnant still inhabit the forest 
land. These j)eople are dark-skinned and flat-nosed, slight 
of frame, and very small of skull, and five feet is an 
average man’s height. They are a shy, harmless, simple 
people, living principally by hunting ; they lime birds, take 
fish by poisoning the water, and are skilful in getting wild 
honey ; they have bows with iron-pointed arrows, which, 
with their hunting-dogs, are their most valuable possessions. 
They dwell in caves or bark huts, and their very word for a 
house is Singhalese for a hollow tree (rukula) ; a patch of 
bark was formerly their dress, but now a bit of linen hangs to 
their waist-cords ; their planting of patches of ground is said 
to be recent. They count on their fingers, and produce fire 
with the simplest kind of fire-drill twirled by hand. They 
are most truthful and honest. Their monogamy and conju- 
gal fidelity contrast strongly with the oppx)site habits of the 
more civilized Singhalese. A remarkable Vedda marriage 
custom sanctioned a man’s taking his younger (not elder) 
sister as his wife; sister-marriage existing among the Singha- 
lese, but being confined to the royal family. Mistaken 
statements have been made as to the Veddas having no 
religion, no personal names, no language. Their religion, 
in fact, corresponds with the animism of the ruder tribes of 
India ; some of their names are remarkable as being Hindu, 

^ See G. Campbell, * Ethnology of India/ in Journ. Ai. Soc, Bengal, 1866, 
part ii. 


but not in use among the modem Singhalese ; their language 
is a Singhalese dialect. There is no doubt attaching to the 
usual opinion that the Veddas are in the main descended 
from the ' yakkos ' or demons ; i.e. from the indigenous 
tribes of the island. Legend and language concur to make 
probable an admixture of Aryan blood accompanying the 
adoption of Aryan speech, but the evidence of bodily 
characteristics shows the Vedda race to be principally of 
indigenous pre-Aryan type.* 

The Tatar family of Northern Asia and Europe (Turanian, 
if the word be used in a restricted sense) displays evidence 
of quite a different kind. This wide-lying group of tribes 
and nations has members nearly or quite touching the 
savage level in ancient and even modern times, such as 
Ostyaks, Tunguz, Samoyeds, Lapps, while more or less 
high ranges of culture are represented by Mongols, Turks, 
and Hungarians! Here, however, it is unquestionable that 
the rude tribes represent the earlier condition of the Tatar 
race at large, from which its more mixed and civilized 
peoples, mostly by adopting the foreign culture of Buddhist, 
Moslem, and Christian nations, and partly by internal 
development, are well known to have risen. The ethnology 
of South-Eastern Asia is somewhat obscure ; but if we may 
classify under one heading the native races of Siam, Burma, 
&c., the wilder tribes may be considered as representing 
earlier conditions, for the higher culture of this region is 
obviously foreign, especially of Buddhist origin. The Malay 
race is also remarkable for the range of civilization repre-*^ 
sented by tribes classed as belonging to it. If the wild 
tribes of the Malayan peninsula and Borneo be compared 
with the semi-civilized nations of Java and Sumatra, it 
appears that part of the race survives to represent an early 

* J. Bailey, * Veddaht/ in Tr. Eth. Soc., vol. ii. p. 278 ; »er vol. iii. 
p. 70 \ Knox, ‘ Historical Relation of Ceylon,* London, 1681, part iii. cKap. i. 

Sec A. Thomson, * Osteology of the Veddas,’ in Journ. Anthrop. Inst. 1889, 
vol. xix. p. 125 j L. de Zoysa, * Origin of Veddas,’ in Joum. Ceylon Branch 
Royal Asiatic Soc., vol. vii. \ B. F. Hartshome in Fortnightly Rev., Mar. 
1876. [Note to 3rd edition.] 



savage state, while part is found in possession of a civiliza- 
tion which the first glance shows to have been mostly 
borrowed from Hindu and Moslem sources. Some forest 
tttbes of the peninsula seem to be representatives of the 
Malay race at its lowest level of culture, how far original 
and how far degraded it is not easy to say. Among them 
the very rude Orang Sabimba, who have no agriculture and 
no boats, give a remarkable account of themselves, that 
they are descendants of shipwrecked Malays from the Bugis 
country, but were so harassed by pirates that they gave up 
civilization and cultivation, and vowed not to eat fowls, 
which betrayed them by their crowing. So they plant 
nothing, but eat wild fruit and vegetables, and all animals 
but the fowl. This, if at all founded on fact, is an interesting 
case of degeneration. But savages usually invent myths to 
account for peculiar habits, as where, in the same district, 
the Biduanda Kallang account for their not cultivating the 
groimd by the story that their ancestors vowed not to make 
plantations. Another rude people of the Malay peninsula 
are the Jakuns, a simple, kindly race, among whom some 
trace their pedigree to a pair of white monkeys, while others 
declare that they are descendants of white men ; and indeed 
there is some ground for supposing these latter to be really 
of mixed race, for they use a few Portuguese words, and a re- 
port exists of some refugees having settled up the country.^ 
yThe Melanesians, Papuans, and Australians represent grades 
of savagery spread each over its own vast area in a com- 
paratively homogeneous way. Lastly, the relations of 
savagery to higher conditions are remarkable, but obscure, 
on the American continents. There are several great 
linguistic families whose members were discovered in a 
savage state throughout ; such are the Esquimaux, Algon- 
quin, and Guarani groups. On the other hand there were 
three apparently unconnected districts of semi-civilization 
reaching a high barbaric level, viz., in Mexico and Central 
America, Bogota, and Peru, Between these higher and 

^ Journ, lud. Archip., voL i. pp. 295-9 ; vol, ii. p. 237. 


lower conditions were races at the level of the Natchez of 
I^nisiana and the Apalaches of* Florida* Linguistic con- 
nexion is not unknown between the more advanced peoples 
and the lower races aroun'd them.^ But definite evidence* 
showing the higher culture to have arisen from the lower, 
or the lower to have fallen from the higher, is scarcely forth- 
coming. Both operations may in degree have happened. 

It is apparent, from such general inspection of this ethno- 
logical problem, that it would repay a far closer study 
than it has as yet received. As the evidence stands at 
present, it appears that when in any race some branches 
much excel the rest in culture, this more often happens 
by elevation than by subsidence. But this elevation is 
much more apt to be produced by foreign than by native 
action. Civilization is a plant much oftener propagated 
than developed. As regards the lower races, this accords 
with the results of European intercourse with savage tribes 
during the last three or four centuries ; so far as these 
tribes have survived the process, they have assimilated more 
or less of European Culture and risen towards the Euro- 
[Xian level, as in Polynesia, South Africa, South America. 
Another important point becomes manifest from this 
ethnological survey. The fact, that during so many thou- 
sand years of known ( xistenoe, neither the Aryan nor the 
Semitic race appears to have thrown off any direct savage 
offshoot, tells, with some force, against the probability 
of degradation to the savage level ever happening from 
high-level civilization. 

With regard to the opinions of older writers on early 
civilization, whether progressionists or degenerationists, it 
must be borne in mind that the evidence at their disposal 

* For the conner.ian between the Artec language and the Sonoran 
family extending N. W. toward the source* of the Missouri, see Busch- 
mann, * Spuren der Ariekischen Sprache im Nordliche.n Mexico,’ &c,, in 
Abh. der Akad. der W’issensch, 1854 ; Berlin, iS<;9 ; also Tr. Eth, Soc., voi. 
ii. p. 130. For the connexion between ihe Natchez and Maya languages 
see Daniel G. Bhnton, in ‘ American Historical Magazine,* 1867, vol, i. 
p. 16 ; and * Myths of the New' W orld,’ p. 28. 



fell far short of even the miserably imperfect data now 
accessible. Criticizing an i8th century ethnologist is like 
criticizing an T8th century geologist. The older writer may 
"'have been far abler than his modern critic, but he had not 
the same materials. Especially he wanted the guidance 
of Prehistoric Archaeology, a department of research only 
established on a scientific footing within the last few years. 
It is essential to gain a clear view of the bearing of this 
newer knowledge on the old problem. 

Chronology, though regarding as more or less fictitious 
the immense dynastic schemes' of the Egyptians, Hindus, 
and Chinese, passing as they do into mere ciphering-book 
sums with years for units, nevertheless admits that existing 
monuments carry back the traces of comparatively high 
civilization to a distance of above five thousand years. By 
piecing together Eastern and Western documentary evidence 
it seems that the great religious divisions of the Aryan race, 
to which modem Brahmanism , Zarathustrism, andBuddhism 
are due, belong m^period of remotely ancient history. 
Even if we cannot hold, with Professor Max Muller, 
in the preface to his translation of the ‘ Rig Veda/ that 
this collection of Aryan hymns ‘ will take and maintain for 
ever its position as the most ancient of books in the library 
of mankind,' and if we do not admit the stringency of 
his reckonings of its date in centuries b.c., yet we must 
grant that he shows cause to refer its comjx>sition to a very 
ancient period, where it then proves that a coin[>arativeIy 
high barbaric culture already existed. The linguistic argu- 
ment for the remotely ancient common origin of thb Indo- 
European nations, in a degree as to their bodily descent, 
and in a greater degree as to their civilization, tends toward 
the same result. So it is again with Egypt. The calcula- 
tions of Egyptian dynasties in thousands of years, how- 
ever disputable in detail, are based on facts which at 
any rate authorize the reception of a long chronology. 
To go no further than the identification of two or three 
Egyptian names mentioned in Biblical and Classical 



history, we gain a strong impression of remote antiquity. 
Such are the names of Shishank ; of the Psammitichos line, 
whose obelisks are to be seen in Rome ; of Tirhakah, King 
<yf Ethiopia, whose nurse's coffin is in the Florence Museum :* 
of the city of Rameses, plainly connected with that great 
Ramesside line which Egyptologists call the 19th Dynasty. 
Here, before classic culture had arisen, the culture of Egypt 
culminated, and behind this time lies the somewhat less 
advanced age of the Pyramid kings, and behind this again 
the indefinite lapse of ages which such a civilization required 
for its production. Again, though no part of the Old Tes- 
tament can satisfactorily prove for itself an antiquity of 
composition approaching that of the earliest FLgyplian 
hierogIy])hic inscri]>tioiis, yet all critics must admit that the 
older of the historical books give on tlK‘ one hand contem- 
porary' document showing considerable culture in the 
S(.‘initic world at a date which in comparison with classic 
history is ancient ; while on the other hand they afford 
cvidence-by way of chronicle, carrying back ages farther the 
record (*f a somewhat advanced barbaric civilization. Now 
if the development -theory is to account for plumomena such 
as these, its chronological demand must be no small one, 
and the more s(' when it is admitted that in the lower ranges 
of culture pr<»gress would be extremely slow in coin])arisun 
with that whicli exjx i ience shows anmiig nations already far 
advanced. On these conditions of the first appearance of 
the middle civilization being throwm back to distant 
anti(}uity, and of slow development being re(]iiired to 
^x^rform its heavy task in ages still more remote. Proh^t on<' 
Archieology che(*rfully takes up the problem. And, nuked 
far from being dismayed by the v;istncss of tlu period 
ieijuin*d on the narrowest computation, the j)rt‘histnru 
archaeologist shows even too much disjx>sition to revel in 
calculations of thousands of years, as a financier d'X‘> in 
reckonings of thousands of pounds, in a liberal and maybe 
somcwliat reckless w'ay. 

Prehistoric Archaeology is fully alive to facts which may 



bear on degeneration in culture. Such are the colossal 

human figures of hewn stone in Easter Island, which may 

possibly have been shaped by the ancestors of the existing 
islanders, whose present resources, however, are quite un- 
equal to the execution of such gigantic works. ^ A much 
more important case is that of the former inhabitants of the 
Mississippi Valley. In districts where the native tribes 
known in modem times rank as savages, there formerly 
dwelt a race whom ethnologists call the Mound-Builders, 
from the amazing extent of their mounds and enclosures, 
of which there is a single group occupying an area of four 
square miles. The regularity of the squares and circles 
and the repetition of enclosures similar in dimensions, 
raise interesting questions as to the methods by which 
these were planned out. To have constructed such works 
the Mound-Builders must have been a numerous population, 
mainly subsisting by agriculture, and indeed vestiges of 
their ancient tillage are still to be found. They did not 
however in industrial arts approach the level of Mexico. 
For instance, their use of native copper, hammered into 
shape for cutting instruments, is similar to that of some 
of the savage tribes farther north. On the whole, judging 
by their earthworks, fields, pottery, stone implements 
and other remains, they seem to have belonged to those 
high savage or barbaric tribes of the Southern States, of 
whom the Creeks and Cherokees, as described by Bartram, 
may be taken as typical.* If any of the wild roving 
hunting tribes now found living near the huge earthworks 
of the Mound-Builders are the descendants of this sorhewhat 
advanced race, then a very considerable degradation has 
taken place. The question is an open one. The explanation 
of the traces of tillage may perhaps in this case be like 

* J. H. Lamprey, in Trans, of Prehistoric Congress, Norwich, iS68, p. 6o ; 
J. Linton Palmer, in Journ. Eth. Soc., vol. i. 1869. 

* Sqliier and Davis, * Mon. of Mississippi X’^allcy,* Ac., in Smithsonian 
Contr., vol. i. 1848 ; Lubbock, ‘ Prehistoric Times/ chap. vti. ; Waitr, 

• Anthropologic,’ vol. iii. p. 72 ; Barfram, * Creek and Cherokee Ind./ in 
Tr. Amer. Ethnol. Soc.^ vol. iii. part i. Sec Petrie, ‘ Inductive Metrology/ 
1S77, p. 122. [Note to 3rd ed.] 


that of the remains of old cultivation-terraces in Borneo, 
the work of Chinese colonists • whose descendants have 

mostly been merged in the mass of the population and 
follow the native habits.^ On the other hand, the evi- 
dence of locality may be misleading as to race. A traveller 
in Greenland, coming on the ruined stone buildings at 
Kakortok, would not argue justly that the Esquimaux 
are degenerate descendants of ancestors capable of such 
architecture, for in fact these are the remains of a church 
and baptistery built by the ancient Scandinavian settlers.* 
On the whole it is remarkable how little of colourable 
evidence of degeneration has been disclosed by archaeology. 
Its negative evidence tells strongly the other way. As an in- 
stance may be quoted Sir John Lubbock's argument against 
the idea that tribes now ignorant of metallurgy and p)ottery 
formerly possessed but have since lost these arts. ‘ Wc 
may also assert, on a general projx)sition, that no weapons 
or instruments of metal have ever been found in any country 
inhabited by savage’s wholly ignorant of metallurgy. A still 
stronger case is afforded by jx^tteiy. JP ottery is not easily 
destroyed ; when known at all it is always abundant, and it 
possesses two qualities, namely, those of being easy to break 
and yet difficult to destroy, which render it very valuable in 
an archaeological point of view. Moreover, it is in most 
cases associated with burials. It is, therefore, a very signi- 
ficant fact, that no fragment of pottery has ever been found 
in Australia, New 2^aland, or in the Polynesian Islands. 
How different a state of things the popular degeneration- 
theory would lead us to expect is pointedly suggested by 
Sir Charles Lyell’s sarcastic sentences in his ' Antiquity of 
Man.' Had the original stock of mankind, he argues, been 
really endowed with superior intellectual powers and inspired 
knowledge, while po.ssessing the same improvable nature as 
their posterity, how extreme a point of advancement would 

' St. John, ‘ Life in Forest* of Far East,' vol. ii. p. 327. 

- Rafn, * .\mcricas Arctiskc Landes Gamle Geographic,* pi. vii., viii. 

^ Lubbock (Lord Avebury), in ‘Report of British Association, 1S67,’ p. 121. 


they have reached. ' Instead of the rudest pottery or flint 
tools, so irregular^ in form as to cause the unpractised eye 
to doubt whether they afford unmistakable evidence of 

’design, we should now be finding sculptured forms surpass- 
ing in beauty the masterpieces of Phidias or Praxiteles ; 
lines of buried railways or electric telegraphs from which 
the best engineers of our day might gain invaluable hints ; 
astronomical instruments and microscopes of more advanced 
construction than any known in Europe, and other indica- 
tions of perfection in the arts and sciences, such as the 
nineteenth century has not yet witnessed. Still farther 
would the triumphs of inventive genius be found to have 
been carried, when the later deposits, now assigned to the 
ages of bronze and iron, were formed. Vainly should we be 
straining our imaginations to guess the possible uses and 
meaning of such relics — machines, perhaps, for navigating 
the air or exploring the depths of the ocean, or for calcula- 
ting arithmetical problems beyond the wants or even the 
conceptions of living mathematicians*'^ 

> The master-key to the investigation of man's primaeval 
condition is held by Prehistoric Archaeology. This key is 
the evidence of the Stone Age, proving that men of remotely 
ancient ages were in the savage state. Ever since the long- 
delayed recognition of M. Boucher de Perthes' discoveries 
(1841 and onward) of the flint implements in the Drift 
gravels of the Somme V alley, evidence has been accumulating 
over a wide European area to show that the ruder Stone 
Age, represented by implements of the Palaiolithic or Drift 
type, prevailed among savage tribes of the Quaternary 
period, the contemp>oraries of the mammoth and the woolly 
rhinoceros, in ages for which Geology asserts an antiquity 
far more remote than History can avail to substantiate for 
the human race. Mr. John Frere had already written in 
1797 respecting such flint instruments discovered at Hoxne 
in Suffolk. ‘ The situation in w'hich these weapons were 
found may tempt us to refer them to a very remote period 

^ Lycll, * Antiquity of Man/ chap. xix. 



indeed, even beyond that of the present world.’* The 
vast lapse of time through which -the history of London has 

represented the history of human civilization, is to my mind 
one of the most suggestive facts disclosed by archaeology. 
There the antiquary, excavating but a few yards deep, 
may descend from the debris representing our modem 
life, to relics of the art and science of the Middle Ages, to 
signs of Norman, Saxon, Romano-British times, to traces 
of the higher Stone Age. And on his way from Temple 
Bar to the Great Northern Station he passes near the spot 

opposite to black Mary’s near Grayes inn lane ’) where 
a Drift implement of black flint was found with the skeleton 
of an elephant by Mr. Conyers, about a century and a half 
ago, the relics side by side of the London mammoth and 
the London savage.* In the gravel-beds of Europe, the 
laterite of India, and other more sup)erficial localities, where 
relics of the Palaeolithic Age are found, what principally 
testifies to man's condition is the extreme rudeness of his 
stone implements, and the absence of even edge-grinding, 
"^'he natural infeicnce that this indicates a low savage state 
is confirmed in the caves of Central France. There a race 
of men, who have left indeed really artistic portraits of 
themselves and the reindeer and mammoths they lived 
among, se^^m, as may be judged from the remains of their 
weapons, implements, &c., to have led a life somewhat of 
Esquimaux tyjx\ but lower by the want of domesticated 
animals. The districts where implements of the rude 
primitive Drift type are found are limited in extent. It is 
to age^ later in time and more advanced in development, 
that the Neolithic' or Polished Stone Period belonged, 
when the manufacture of stone instruments was much 
improved, and grinding and jx>lishing were generally intro- 
duced. During the long p)eriod of prevalence of this state 
of things, Man appt'ars to have spread almost over the whole 

* Frcre, in ‘ Archacologia/ 1800. 

• J. Evans, in ' Archaeologia,' 1861 ; Lubbock, ‘ Prehistoric Times,' 2nd 

» P- 335- 


habitable earth. The examination of district after district 
of the world has jiow all but established a universal rule 
that the Stone Age (bone or shell being the occasional 

Substitutes for stone) underlies the Metal Age everywhere. 

[le districts famed in history as seats of ancient 
civilizatioiT'Shew^hke other regions, their traces of a yet 
more archaic Ston?"Ag€u^Asia Minor, Egypt, Palestine, 
India, China, furnish evi^ehc^from actual specimens, 

. historical mentions, and survivals^'whi^ demonstrate the 
former prevalence of conditions of society>wtlkh have their 
analogues among modem savage tribes.' The^Duke of 
Argyll, in his * Primeval Man,* while admitting ufesJDrift 
implements as having been the ice hatchets and rude kni^ 
of low tribes of men inhabiting Europe toward the end of 
the Glacial Period, concludes thence ' that it would be about 
as safe to argue from these implements as to the condi- 
tion of Man at that time in the countries of his Primeval 
Home, as it would be in our own day to argue from the 
habits and arts of the Eskimo as to the state of civilization 
in London or in Paris/* The progress of Archaeology' for 
years past, however, has been continually cutting away the 
ground on which such an argument as this can stand, till 
now it is all but utterly driven off the field. Where now is 
the district of the earth that can be pointed to as th(‘ 

' Pnmeval Home * of Man, and that does not show by rude 
stone implements buried in its soil the savage condition 
of its former inhabitants ? There is scarcely a known 
province of the world of which we cannot say certainly, 
savages once dwelt here, and if in such a case an ethno- 
logist asserts that these savages were the descendants or 
successors of a civilized nation, the burden of proof lies on 
him. Again, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age belong in 
great measure to history, but their relation to the Stone 
Age proves the soundness of the judgement of Lucretius, 
when, attaching experience of the present to memory and 

' See * Early History of Mankind,' 2nd cd. chap. viii. 

- Argyll, ‘ Primeval Man,’ p. 129. 


inference from the past, he propounded what is now a tenet 
of archseology, the succession of the Stone, Bronze, and Iron 

Ages : 

* Arma antiqua manus ungues dentcsquc fuerunt, 

Et lapides ct item siivarum fragmina rami 

Postcrius ferri vis est zrisque rcperta, 

Et prior a?ris crat quam ferri cognitus’usus.’ * 

Throughout the various topics of Prehistoric Archaeology, 
the force and convergence of its testimony upon the develop- 
ment of culture are overpowering. The relics discovered in 
gravel-beds, caves, shell-mounds, terramares, lake-dwellings, 
earthworks, the results of an exploration of the superficial 
soil in many countries, the comparison of geological evi- 
dence, of historical documents, of modem savage life, 
corroborate and explain one another. The megaJithic 
structures, menhirs, cromlechs, dolmens, and the like, only 
known to England, France, Algeria, as the work of races of 
the mysterious past, have been kept up as matters of modem 
construction and recognized purpose among the ruder indi- 
genous tribes of India. The series of ancient lake-settle- 
ments which must represent so many centuries of successive 
{X)pulation fringing the shores of the Swiss lakes, have their 
surviving represtmtatives among the rude tribes of the East 
Indies, Africa, and South America. Outlying savages arc 
still heaping up shell-mounds like those of far-past Scandi- 
navian anti(iuity. The burial mounds still to be seen in 
civilize;^ countries have served at once as museums of early 
culture and as proofs of its savage or barbaric type. It is 
enough, without entering farther here into subjects fully 
discussed in modern special works, to claim the general 
support given to the development- theory of culture by Pre- 
historic Archaeology. It was with a tme appreciation of 
the bearings of this science that one of its founders, the 
venerable Professor Sven Nilsson, declared in 1843 in the 

* Liicrct, Dc RtTum Natura, v. 1281. 


Introduction to his ‘ Primitive Inhabitants of Scandinavia,' 

that we are * unable properly to understand the significance 

of the antiquities of any individual country without at the 
• same time clearly realizing the idea that they are the frag- 
ments of a progressive series of civilization, and that the 
human race has always been, and still is, steadily advancing 
in civilization.'^ 

Enquiry into the origin and early development of the 
material arts, as judged of by comparing the various stages 
at which they are found existing, leads to a corresponding 
result. Not to take this argument up in its full range, a 
few typical details may serve to show its general character. 
Amongst the various stages of the arts, it is only a minority 
which show of themselves by mere inspection whether they 
are in the line of progress or of decline. Most such facts 
may be compared to an Indian's canoe, stem and stern alike, 
so that one cannot tell by looking at it which way it is set 
to go. But there are some which, like our own boats, 
distinctly point in the direction of their actual course. 
Such facts are pointers in the study of civilization, and in 
every branch of the enquiry should be sought out. A good 
example of these pointer-facts is recorded by Mr. Wallace. 
In Celebes, where the bamboo houses are apt to lean with 
the prevalent west wind, the natives have found out that if 
they fix some crooked timbers in the sides of the house, it 
will not fall. They choose such accordingly, the crookedest 
they can find, but they do not know the rationale of the 
contrivance, and have not hit on the idea that straight poles 
fixed slanting would have the same effect in making the 
structure rigid.* In fact, they have gone half-way toward 
inventing what builders call a ‘ strut,' but have stopped 

^ Sec Lycll, ‘Antiquity of Man,’ 3rd ed. 1863; Lubbock, ‘Prehistoric 
Times,’ 2nd cd. 1870 ; ‘ Trans, of Congress of Prehistoric Archaeology ’ 
(Norwich, 1868) j Stevens, ‘Flint Chips, &c.,’ 1870; Nilsson, ‘Primitive 
Inhabitants of Scandinavia ’ (cd. by Lubbock, 1868) ; Falconer, ‘ Palaeonto- 
logical Memoirs, &c.’ ; Lartet and Christy, ‘ Rcliquia; Aquitanicae ’ (cd. by 
T. R. Jones) ; Keller, * Lake Dwellings ’ (Tr. and Ed. by J. E. Lee), Ac., Sec. 

• Wallace, ‘ Indian Archipelago,’ vol. i. p. 357. 

short. Now the mere sight of such a house would show 

that the plan is not a remnant of higher architecture, but a 

half-made invention. This is a fact in the line of progress, 

but not of decline. I have mentioned elsewhere a number • 
of similar cases ; thus the adaptation of a cord to the fire- 
drill is obviously an improvement on the simpler instru- 
ment twirled by hand, and the use of the spindle for 
making thread is an improvement on the clumsier art of 
hand-twisting ; ‘ but to reverse this position, and suppose the 
hand-drill to have come into use by leaving off the use of 
the cord of the cord-drill, or that people who knew the use 
of the spindle left it off and painfully twisted their thread by 
hand, is absurd. Again, the appearance of an art in a par- 
ticular locality where it is hard to account for it as borrowed 
from elsewhere, and especially if it concerns some special 
native product, is evidence of its being a native invention. 
Thus, what people can claim the invention of the hammock, 
or the still more admirable discovery of the extraction of 
the wholesome cassava from the poisonous manioc, but the 
natives of the South American and West Indian districts to 
wliich these things belong ? As the isolated possession of 
an art goes to prove its invention where it is found, so the 
absence of an art goes to prove that it was never present. 
The onas probandi is on the other side ; if anyone thinks 
that the East African's ancestors had the lamp and the 
potter's wheel, and that the North American Indians once 
possessed the art of making beer from their maize like the 
Mexicans, but that these arts have been lost, at any rate let 
him sh6w cause for such an opinion. I need not, {>erhaps, go 
so far as a facetious ethnological friend of mine, who argues 
that the existence of savage tribes who do not kiss their 
women is a proof of primaeval barbarism, for, he says, if 
they had ever knowm the practice they could not possibly 
have forgotten it. Lastly and principally, as experience 
shows us that arts of civilized life are developed through 
successive stages of improvement, we may assume that the 

^ * Early History of Mankind,* pp. 192, 243, Ac., Ac. 



early development of even savage arts came to pass in a 
similar way, and thus, finding various stages of an art 
among the lower races, we may arrange these stages in a 
series probably representing their actual sequence in 
history. If any art can be traced back among savage tribes 
to a rudimentary state in which its invention does not seem 
beyond their intellectual condition, and especially if it may 
be produced by imitating nature or following nature's direct 
suggestion, there is fair reason to suppose the very origin of 
the art to have been reached. 

Professor Nilsson, looking at the remarkable similarity 
of the hunting and fishing instruments of the lower races of 
mankind, considers them to have been contrived instinct- 
ively by a sort of natural necessity. As an example he takes 
the bow and arrow.^ The instance seems an unfortunate 
one, in the face of the fact that the supposed bow-and- 
arrow-making instinct fails among the natives of Tasmania, 
to whom it would have been very useful, nor have the 
Austr^Jlns any bow of their own invention. Even within 
the Papuan region, the bow so prevalent in New Guinea 
is absent, or almost so, from New Caledonia. It 
seems to me that Dr. Klemm, in his dissertations on 
Implements and Weapons, and Colonel Lane Fox, in 
his lectures on Primitive Warfare, take a more instructive 
line in tracing the early development of arts, not to a 
blind instinct, but to a selection, imitation, and gradual 
adaptation and improvement of objects and operations 
which Nature, the instructor of primaeval man, sets before 
him. Thus Klemm traces the stages by which pfogress 
appears to have been made from the rough stick to the 
finished spear or club, from the natural sharp-edged or 
rounded stone to the artistically fashioned celt, spear- head, 
or hammer.® Lane Fox traces connexion through the various 
types of weapons, pointing out how a form once arrived 
at is repeated in various sizes, like the spear-head and 

' Nilsson, * Primitive Inhabitants of Scandinavia/ p. 104. 

Klemm, * Allg. Culturwisscnschaft,’ part ii., Werkzcuge und Waffen. 



arrow-point ; how in rude conditions of the arts the same 
instrument serves different purposes, as where the Fuegians 
use their arrow-heads also for knives, and Kafirs carve 
with their assagais, till separate forms are adopted for 
special purposes ; and how in the history of the striking, 
cutting, and piercing instruments used by mankind, a 
continuity may be traced, which indicates a gradual pro- 
gressive development from the rudest beginnings to the 
most advanced improvements of modem skill. To show 
how far the early development of warlike arts may have 
been due to man's imitative faculty, he points out the 
analogies in methods of warfare among animals and men, 
classifying as defensive appliances hides, solid plates, 
jointed plates, scales ; as offensive weapons, the piercing, 
striking, serrated, poisoned kinds, &c. ; and under the head 
of stratagems, flight, concealment, leaders, outposts, war- 
cries, and so forth. ^ 

The manufacture of stone implements is now almost 
perfectly understo(xi by archaeologists. The processes used 
by modern savages have been observed and imitated. Sir 
John Evans, for instance, by blows with a pebble, pressure 
with a piece of stag’s horn, sawing with a flint-flake, boring 
with a stick and sand, and grinding on a stone surface, 
succeeds in reproducing all but the finest kinds of stone 
implements.* On thorough knowledge we are now able to 
refer in great measure the remarkable similarities of the 
stone scrapers, flake-knives, hatchets, spear- and arrow- 
heads, &c., as found in distant times and regions, to the 
similarity of natural models, of materials, and of require- 
ments which belong to savage life. The history of the 
Stone Age is clearly seen to be one of development. Begin- 
ning with the natural sharp stone, the transition to the 

* Lane Fox (Pitt-Rivers), ‘ Lecuires on Primitive Warfare/ Journ. United 
Service Inst., 1867-9. 

* Evans in * Tran>. of Cong:ress of Prehistoric Archirology * (Norwich, 
1868), p. 191 ; Ran In ‘ Reports/ 186H ; Sir K. Belcher in Tr. 
Eih. Soc., vol. i. p. 129, 


rudest artificially shaped stone implement is imperceptibly 
gradual, and onward from this rude stage much indepen- 
dent progress in different directions is to be traced, till the 
. manufacture at last arrives at admirable artistic perfection, 
by the time that the introduction of metal is sup)erseding it. 
So with other implements and fabrics, of which the stages 
are known through their whole course of development from 
the merest nature to the fullest art. The club is traced 
from the rudest natural bludgeon up to the weajx^n of 
finished shape and carving. Pebbles held in the hand to 
hammer with, and cutting-instruments of stone shaped or 
left smooth at one end to be held in the hand, may be seen 
in museums, hinting that the important art of fixing instru- 
ments in handles was the result of invention, not of instinct. 
The stone hatchet, used as a weapon, passes into the battle- 
axe. The spear, a pointed stick or pole, has its point 
hardened in the fire, and a further improvement is to fix on 
a sharp point of horn, bone, or chipped stone. Stones are 
flung by hand, and then by the sling, u contrivance widely 
but not universally known among savage tribes. From first 
to last in the history of war the spear or lance is grasped as 
a thrusting weapon. Its use as a missile no doubt began 
as early, but it has hardly survived so far in civilization. 
Thus used, it is most often thrown by the unaided arm, but 
a sling for the purpose is known to various savage tribes. 
The short cord with an eye used in the New Hebrides, and 
called a ‘ becket ' by Captain Cook, and a whip-like in- 
strument noticed in New Zealand, are used for spear- 
throwing. But the more usual instrument is a A^ooden 
handle, a foot or two long. This spear-thrower is known 
across the high northern districts of North America, among 
some tribes of South America, and among the Australians. 
These latter, it has been asserted, could not have invented 
it in their present state of barbarism. But the remarkable 
feature of the matter is that the spear-thrower belongs espe- 
cially to savagery, and not to civilization. Among the higher 
nations the nearest approach to it seems to have been the 



classic amentum, a thong attached to the middle of the 
shaft of the javelin to throw it with. The highest people 
known to have used the spear-thrower proper were the 
nations of Mexico and Central America. Its existence 
among them is vouched for by representations in the 
mythological pictures, by its Mexican name * atlatl/ and 
by a beautifully artistic specimen of the thing itself in 
the Christy Museum ; but we do not hear of it as in 
practical use after the S])anish Conquest, In fad the 
history of the instrument seems in absolute opposition to 
the degradation-theory, representing as it dcxts an invention 
belonging to the lower civilization, and scarcely able to 
survive beyond. Nearly the same may be said of the blow- 
tube, wliich as a serious weapon scarcely ranges above rude 
tribes of the East Indies and South America, though kept 
up in sport at higluT levels. The Australian boomerang 
has been claimed as derived from some hypothetical high 
culture, whereas the transition-stages through which it is 
connected with the club are to be observed in its own 
country, while no civilized race possesses the weapon. 

The use of s{)ring traps of bouglis, of switches to fillip 
small missiles wi^th, and of the remarkable darts of the Pelew 
Islands, bent and made to fly by their own spring, indicate 
inventions which may have led to that of the bow, while 
the arrow is a miniature form of the javelin. The practice 
of j)oisoning arrows, after the manner of stings and serpents' 
fangs, is no civilized device, but a characteristic of lower 
life, which is generally discarded even at the barbaric stage. 
The art' of narcotizing fish, remembered but not approved 
by high civilization, Ixdongs to many savage tribes, w^ho 
might easily discover it in any forest pool where a suitable 
plant had fallen in. riic art of setting fences to catch fish 
at the ebb of the tide, so common among the lower races, is 
a simple device for assisting nature quite likely to occur to 
the savagt‘, in whom sliarp hunger is no mean ally of dull 
wit. Thus it is with other arts. Fire-making, cooking^ 
pottery, the textile arts, are to be traced along lines of 



gradual improvement.^ Music begins with the rattle and 
the drum, which in one way or another hold their places 
from end to end of civilization, while pipes and stringed 
instruments represent an advanced musical art which is still 
developing. So with architecture and agriculture. Com- 
plex, elaborate, and highly-reasoned as are the upper stages 
of these arts, it is to be remembered that their lower stages 
begin with mere direct imitatian of nature, copying the 
/'shelters which nature provides, and the propagation of 
plants which nature performs. Without enumerating to 
the same purpose the remaining industries of savage life, it 
may be said generally that their facts resist rather than 
require a theory of degradation from higher culture. They 
agree with, and often necessitate, the same view of develop- 
ment which we know by experience to account for the origin 
and progress of the arts among ourselves. 

In the various branches of the problem which will hence- 
forward occupy our attention, that of determining the 
relation of the mental condition of salvages to that of civi- 
lized men, it is an excellent guide and safeguard to keep 
before our minds the theory of development in the material 
arts. Throughout all the manifestations of the human 
intellect, facts will be found to fall into their places on the 
same general lines of evolution. The notion of the intel- 
lectual state of savages as resulting from decay of previous 
high knowledge, seems to have as little evidence in its 
favour as that stone celts are the degenerate successors of 
Sheffield axes, or earthen grave-mounds degraded copies of 
Egyptian pyramids. The study of savage and civihzed life 
alike avail us to trace in the early history of the human 
intellect, not gifts of transcendental wisdom, but rude 
shrewd sense taking up the facts of common life and 
shaping from them schemes of primitive philosophy. It 
will be seen again and again, by examining such topics as 
language, mythology, custom, religion, that savage opinion 
is in a more or less rudimentary state, while the civilized 

' Sec details in * Early History of Mankind/ chap, vii.-ix. 



mind still bears vestiges, neither few nor slight, of a past 
condition from which savages represent the least, and 
civilized men the greatest advance. Throughout the whole 
vast range of the history of human thought and habit, while 
civilization has to contend not only with survival from 
lower levels, but also with degeneration within its own 
borders, it yet proves capable of overcoming both and 
taking its own course. History within its proper held, and 
ethnography over a wider range, combine to show that the 
institutions which can best hold their own in the world 
gradually supersede the less ht ones, and that this in- 
cessant conflict determines the general resultant course of 
culture. I will venture to set forth in mythic fashion how 
progress, aberration, and retrogression in the general course 
of culture contrast themselves in my own mind. We may 
fancy ourselves looking on Civilization, as in personal 
figure she traverses the world ; we see her lingering or 
resting by the way, and often deviating into paths that 
bring her toiling back to where she had passed by long 
ago ; but, direct or devious, her path lies forward, and if 
now and then she tries a few backward steps, her walk soon 
falls into a helpless stumbling. It is not according to her 
nature, her feet were not made to plant uncertain steps 
behind her, for both in her forward view and in her onward 
gait she is of truly human type. 



Survival and Superstition — Children’s games — Games of chance — Tradi- 
tional sayings — Nursery poems — Proverbs — Riddles — Significance and 
survival in Customs : sneezing-formula, rite of foundation-sacrifice, 
prejudice against saving a drowning man. 

When a custom, an art, or an opinion is fairly started 
in the world, disturbing influences may long affect it so 
slightly that it may keep its course from generation to 
generation, as a stream once settled in its bed will flow on 
for ages. This is mere permanence of culture ; and the 
special wonder about it is that the change and revolution 
of human affairs should have left so many of its feeblest 
rivulets to run so long. On the Tatar steppes, six hun- 
dred years ago, it was an offence to tread on the threshold 
or touch the ropes in entering a tent, and so it appears to 
be still. ^ Eighteen centuries ago Ovid mentions tiie vulgar 
Roman objection to marriages in May, which he not un- 
reasonably explains by the cKCurrcnce m that month of the 
funeral rites of the Lemuralia ;-~ 


* Ncc viduic taedis eadem ncc Virginia apta 
Tempera. Quae nupsit, non diuiurna fuit. 

Hac quoque de causa, si te proverbia tangunt, 

Mense malas Maio nubcrc volgus ait.’* 

The saying that marriages in May are unlucky survives 

* Will, dc Rubruquis in Pinkerton, vol. vii. pp. 46, 67, 132; Michie, 
‘ Siberian Overland Route,’ p. 96. 

* t)vid. Fast. v. 487. For modern Italy and France, sec Ediflcstane du 
M^ril, ‘ Etudes d’Arch^ol.’ p, 121. 




to this day in England, a striking example how an idea, 
the meaning of which has perished for ages, may continue 
to exist simply because it has existed. 

Now there are thousands of cases of this kind w^hich ' 
have become, so to speak, landmarks in the course of 
culture. When in the process of time there has come 
general change in the condition of a people, it is usual, 
notwithstanding, to find much that manifestly had not its 
origin in the new state of things, but has simply lasted on 
into it. On the strength of these survivals, it becomes 
possible to declare that the civilization of the people they 
are observed among must have been derived from an earlier 
state, in which the propt'r home and meaning of these 
things are to be found ; and thus collections of such facts 
are to be worked as mines of historic knowledge. In deal- 
ing with such materials, ex[^>enence of what actually 
hapix‘ns is the main guide, and direct hi.^tory has to teach 
us, first and foremost, how old habits hold their ground in 
the midst of a new culture which certainly would never 
iiave brought them in, but on the contrary presses hard to 
thrust them out. What this direct information is like, a 
single example may show. The Dayaks of Borneo were 
not accustomed to chop W(X>d, as we do, by notching out 
V-shajx^d cuts. Accordingly, when the white man intruded 
among them with this among other novelties, they marked 
their disgust at the innovation by levying a fine on any of 
their own people who should caught chopping in the 
Euro}>ean fashion ; yet so well aware wcvv the native wood- 
cutters lhat the white man s plan w;is an improvement on 
their own. that they vvould use it surreptitiously when 
they could trast one another not to tell.‘ The account is 
twenty years old, and very likely the foreign chop may have 
ceased to be an offence against Dayak conservatism, but its 
prohibition was a striking instance of survival by ancestral 
authority in the very teeth of common sense. Such a 
proceeding as this would be usually, and not improperly, 

* ‘ Journ. Ind. Archip.’ (ed. by j. R. Logan), vol. ti. p. liv. 



described as a supeistition ; and, indeed, this name would 
Ix^ given to a large proportion of survivals, such for instance 
as may be collected by the hundred from books of folk-lore 
and occult science. But the term superstition now implies 
a reproach, and though this reproach may be often cast 
deservedly on fragments of a dead lower culture em- 
Ixdded in a living higher one, yet in many cases it would 
be harsh, and even untrue. For the ethnographer's pur- 
pose, at any rate, it is desirable to introduce such a term 
as ' survival,’ simply to denote the historical fact which 
the word ‘ superstition ’ is now spoiled for expressing. 
Moreover, there have to be included as partial survivals 
the mass of cases where enough of the old habit is kept up 
for its origin to be recognizable, though in taking a new 
form it has been so adapted to new circumstances as still to 
hold its place on its own merits. 

Thus it would be seldom reasonable to call the children’s 
games of modem Europe superstitions, though many of 
them are survivals, and indeed remarkable ones. If the 
games of children and of grown-up jxi^ple be examined 
with an eye to ethnological lessons to lx gained from them, 
one of tlx first things that strikes us is how many of them 
arc only sportive imitations of the serious business of life. 
As children in modem civilized times play at dining and 
driving horses and going to church, so a main amusement 
t)f savage children is to imitate the occupations which they 
will carry on in earnest a few years later, and thus their 
games are in fact their lessons. The Esquimaux children’s 
^P<)rt^ arc shooting with a tiny bow' and arrow at a mark, 
and building little snow-huts, which they light up with 
-craps of liunp-wick begged from their mothers.' Miniature 
boomerangs and spears are among the toys of Australian 
children ; and even as the fathers keep up as a recognized 
means of getting themselves wives the practice of carrying 
them off by violence, so playing at such Sabine marriage 
has been noticed as one of the regular games of the little 

1 Klcmm, ‘ Culiur-Cictchichrc/ vol, ii. p. 209. 



native boys and girls.* Now it is quite a usual thing in 
the world for a game to outlive the serious practice of which 
it is an imitation. The bow and arrow is a conspicuoas 
instance. Ancient and widespread in savage culture, we 
trace this instrument through barbaric and classic life and 
onward to a high mediaeval level. But now, when we look 
on at an archery meeting, or go by country lanes at the 
season when toy bows and arrows are ' in ' among the 
children, we see, reduced to a mere sportive survival, the 
ancient weapon which among a few savage tribes still keeps 
its deadly place in the hunt and the battle. The cross-bow, 
a comparatively late and local improvement on the long- 
bow, has disappeared yet more utterly from practical use ; 
but as a toy it is in full European service, and likely to 
remain so. For antiquity and wide diffusion in the world, 
through savage up to classic and mediaeval times, the sling 
ranks with the bow and arrow. But in the middle ages it 
fell out of iLsc as a practical weapon, and it was all in vain 
that the 15th century poet commended the art of slinging 
among the exercises of a good soldier : — 

' Use cck the cast of stone, with slyngc or hondc : 

It falleth oftc, yf other shot there none is, 

Men harneysed in steel may not withstonde, 

The multitude and mighty cast of stonys •, 

And stonys in effecte, arc every where, 

And slynges are not noyous for to beare.’ • 

Perhaps as serious a use of the sling as can now be pointed 
out without the limits of civilization is among the herdsmen 
of Spatnish America, who sling so cleverly that the saying is 
they can hit a beast on either horn and turn him which 
way they will. But the use of the rude old weapon is 
esp^ially kept up by boys at play, who are here again the 
representatives of remotely ancient culture. 

As games thus keep up the record of primitive warlike 

* Oldfield in * Tr, Eth. Soc.* vol. iii. p. 266 ; Dumont d'Urville, * V^oy. dc 
TAstrolabc,’ vol. i. p. 41 1. 

• Strutt, 'Sports and Pastimes,' book ii. chap, ii. 



arts, so they reproduce, in what are at once sports and 
little children’s lessons, early stages in the history of child- 
like tribes of mankind. English children delighting in the 
imitations of cries of animals and so forth, and New Zea- 
landers playing their favourite game of imitating in chorus 
the saw hissing, the adze chipping, the musket roaring, and 
the other instruments making their proper noises, are 
alike showing at its source the imitative element so import- 
ant in the formation of language.^ When we look into the 
early development of the art of counting, and see the 
evidence of tribe after tribe having obtained numerals 
through the primitive stage of counting on their fingers, we 
find a certain ethnographic interest in the games which 
teach this earliest numeration. The New Zealand game of 
* ti ' is described as played by counting on the fingers, a 
number being called by one player, and he having instantly 
to touch the proper finger ; while in the Samoan game one 
player holds out so many fingers, and his opponent must 
do the same instantly or lose a point.® These may be native 
Polynesian games, or they may be our own children’s 
games borrowed. In the English nursery the child learns 
to say how’ many fingers the nurse shows, and the appointed 
formula of the game is 'Buck, Buck, how many horns do I 
hold up ? ’ The game of one holding up fingers and the 
others holding up fingers to match is mentioned in Strutt. 
We may see small schoolboys in the lanes playing at the 
guessing-game, where one gets on another's back and holds 
up fingers, the other must guess how many. It is interest- 
ing to notice the wide distribution and long permalience of 
these trifles in history when we read the following passage 
from Petronius Arbiter, written in the time of Nero : — 
‘ Trimalchio, not to seem moved by the loss, kissed the 
boy and bade him get up on his back. Without delay the 

^ Polack, ‘ New Zealanders,’ vol. ii. p. 171. 

® Polack, ibid. ; Wilkes, ‘ U.S. Exp.’ vol. i. p. 194. Sec the account of 
the game of liagi in Mariner, ‘Tonga h.’ vol. ii. p. ; and Yatc, ‘ New 
Zealand,’ p. 113. 



boy climbed on horseback on him, and slapped him on the 
shoulders with his hand, laughing and calling out * bucca, 
bucca, (juot sunt hie ? The simple counting-games 
played with the fingers must not be confounded with the 
addition-game, where each player throws out a hand, and 
the sum of all the fingers shown has to be called, the 
successful caller scoring a point ; each should call the 
total before he sees his adversary’s hand, so that the skill 
lies especially in shrewd gue*ssing. This game affords end- 
less amusement to Sf>uthem Europe, where it is known 
in Italian as ' morra,' and m French as ‘ mourre,' and it i> 
popular in ( hina under the name of tsai mei, or ‘ guess 
how many 1 ' So peculiar a game would hardly have been 
invented twice over in Europt.‘ and Asia, and as the Chinese 
tenn d(K‘s not apj.x'ar to be ancient, we may take it as 
likely that the Portuguese merchants introduced the 
game into ( hma, as they certainly did into Japan. The 
ancient Egyptians, as their sculptures shf)w, used to play 
at some kind of finger-game, and the Romans had their 
finger-flashing, ' micare digitis,' at which butchers used 
to gamble with their customers for bits of meat. It 
is not clear whether these were morra or some other 

W hen Scotch lads, playing at the game of ‘ tappie- 
tou>ie,’ take one another by the forc'lock and say, ' Will ye 
bt! my man?’® they know nothing of the old symbolic 
manner of receiving a bondman which they are keeping up 
in sur\’ival. The wooden drill for making fire by friction, 
w'hiclf so many rude or ancient races ar(‘ known to hav^e 
used as their common household instrument, and w'hich 
lasts on among the modern Hindus as the time-honoured 
sacred means of lighting the pure sacrificial flame, has been 

^ Petron. Arbilri Satirac rcc. Bvichlcr, p. 64 (other readings arc bucca 
or bucco). 

* Compare Davis^ ‘Chinese,’ vol. i. p. 3*7; Wilkinson, Ancient 
Egyptians, vol. i. p. i8H ; Facciolati, Lexicon, s.v. ' micare ’ •, Ac. 

® Jamieson, ‘ Diet, of Scottish Lang.’ s.v. 



found surviving in Switzerland as a toy among the children, 
who made fire with it in sport, much as Equimaux would 
have done in earnest.* In Gothland it is on record that the 
ancient sacrifice of the Wild boar has actually been carried 
on into modem time in sportive imitation, by lads in mas- 
querading clothes with their faces blackened and painted, 
while the victim was personated by a boy rolled up in furs 
and placed upon a ^at, with a tuft of pointed straws in his 
mouth to imitate the bristles, of the boar.* One innocent 
little child’s sport of our own time is strangely mixed up 
with an ugly story of about a thousand years ago. The 
game in question is thus played in France : — ^The children 
stand in a ring, one lights a spill of paper and p>asses it on 
to the next, saying, ‘ petit bonhomme vit encore,' and so 
on roimd the ring, each sa3nng the words and passing on 
the flame as quickly as may be, for the one in whose hands 
the spill goes out has to pay a forfeit, and it is then pro- 
claimed that ' petit bonhomme est mort.' Grimm men- 
tions a similar game in Germany, played with a burning 
stick, and Halliwell gives the nursery rhyme which is said 
with it when it is played in England : — 

* Jack’s alive and in very good health. 

If he dies in your hand you must look to yourself.’ 

Now, as all readers of Church history know, it used to be a 
favourite engine of controversy for the adherents of an esta- 
blished faith to accuse heretical sects of celebrating hideous 
orgies as the m)^teries of their religion. The Pagans told 
these stories of the Jews, the Jews told them %of the 
Christians, and Christians themselves reached a bad emi- 
nence in the art of slandering religious opp>onents whose 
moral life often seems in fact to have been exceptionally 
pure. The Manichaeans were an especial mark for such 
aspersions, which were passed on to a sect considered as 
their successors — the Paulicians, whose name reappears in 

* * Early History of Mankind,’ p. 144, ice. ; Gnmm, ‘ Dcuttclic Myth.,* 
P- 573 * • Grimm, p. 1100, 



the middle ages, in connexion with the Cathari. To these 
latter, apparently from an expression in one of their reli- 
gious formulas, was given the name of Boni Homines, which 
l^came a recognized term for the Albigenses. It is clear, 
that the early Paulicians excited the anger of the orthodox 
by objecting to sacred images, and calling those who vene- 
rated them idolaters ; and about a.d. 700, John of Osun, 
Patriarch of Armenia, wrote a diatribe against the sect, 
urging accusations of the regular anti-Manichaean type, but 
with a peculiar feature which brings his statement into the 
present singular connexion. He declares that they blas- 
phemously call the orthodox ‘ image-worshippers ; ' that 
they themselves worship the sun ; that, moreover, they mix 
wheaten flour with the blood of infants and therewith cele- 
brate their communion, and ' when they have slain by the 
worst of deaths a boy, the first-bom of his mother, thrown 
from hand to hand among them by turns, they venerate 
him in whose hand the child expires, as having attained to 
the first dignity of the sect.* To explain the correspond- 
ence of these atrocious details with the nursery sport, it is 
perhaps the most likely supposition, not that the game of 
‘ Petit Bonhomme * keeps up a recollection of a legend of 
the Boni Homines, but that the game was known to the 
children of the eighth century much as it is now, and that 
the Armenian Patriarch simply accused the Paulicians of 
playing at it with live babes.* 

* HaUiweU, ‘ Popular Rhyme«,’ p. na ; Grimm, ‘ D. M.‘ p. 812. Bascian, 
‘Menach/ vol. iii. p. io6. Johannia Philoaophi Oznicnsia Opera (Aucher), 
V'cnice, 1834, pp. 78-89. * Infantium aanguini aimilam commiscentes ille- 

gitimam communionem degiutiunt ; <{UO pacto porcorum suos fertus im- 
maniter veacentium exauperant edacitatem. Quique illorum cadavera 
super lecti oilmen celantea, ac suraum oculia in ccelutn defixis respicientes, 
jurant alieno verbo ac tensu Ahiistmus noDU. Solem vero deprccari 
volentet, ajunt : Soltcule^ Luetcule \ atque aoreoa, vagoaque damionea clam 
invocant, juxta Mamcharorum Stmoniaque incantatoria errorcs. Similiter 
et primum parientta feeminx puerum de manu in manum inter eos iavicem 
project um, quum peaaima morte occiderint, ilium, in cujua manu exspira- 
verit pucr, ad primani tectar dignitatem provectum venerantur ^ atque per 
utnuaque nomen audent inaane jurare ; Juro^ dicunt, prr unigenttum fUium : 
et iterum : T’esitm haheo tihi g^ohitm efwf, $rt ettfus manum umf^etntus ^Uns 



It may be possible to trace another interesting group of 
sports as sur\'ivaJs from a branch of savage philosophy, once 
of high rank though now fallen into merited decay. Games 
,of chance correspond ‘so closely with arts of divination 
belonging already to savage culture, that there is force in 
applying to several such games the rule that the serious 
practice comes first, and in time may dwindle to the six^rtive 
survival. To a modern educated man, drawing lots or 
tossing up a coin is an appeal to chance, that is, to igno- 
rance ; it is committing the decision of a question to a 
mechanical process, itself in no way unnatural or even 
extraordinaiy\ but merely so ditficult to follow that no one 
can say beforehand what will C(ane of it. But we aKo know 
that this scientific doctrine of chance is not tliat of early 
civilization, which has little in common with the mathema- 
tician’s theory of probabilities, but much in common with 
such sacred divination as the choice of Matthias by lot as 
a twelfth apostle, or, in a later age, the Moravian Brethren's 
rite of choosing wives for their young men by casting lots 
with prayer. It was to no blind chance that the Maons 
looked when they divined by throwing up kus to find a 
thief among a suspected company or the (iuinea negroes 
w^hen they went to the fetish-priest, who shuffled his bundle 
of little strips of leather and gave his sacred urntm.* The 
crowd with uplifted hands pray to the gods, when th(‘ hert)es 
cast lots in the cap of Atreides Agamemnon, to know' w'ho 
shall go forth to do battle with Hektor and help the w'cll- 
greaved Greeks.^ With prayer to the gods, and looking up 
to heaven, the German priest or father, as Tacitus* relates, 
drew three lots from among the marked fruit-tree twigs 
scattered on a pure white garment, and inte.rjireted the 

spirttum suum tradtdtt .... Contra hos [the orthodox] audacter evomcrc 
praergumunt impictatis suae bilcm, atque insanientes, cx inaii spiritus 
blasphemia, Sculpticolas vocant.’ 

^ Polack, vol. i. p. zyo, 

* Bosman, * Guinese Kust,’ letter x. ; Eng. Trans, in Pinkerton, vol. xvi. 
P- 399 - 

* Homer. Iliad, vii. 171 ; Pindar. Pyth. iv. 338. 


answer from their signs.' As in ancient Italy oracles gave 
responses by graven lots,* so the modem Hindus decide 
disputes by casting lots in front of a terriple, appealing 
to the gods with cries of ‘ Let justice be shown ! Show 
the innocent ! 

Th(* uncivilized man thinks that lots or dice are adjusted 
in their fall with reference to the meaning he may choose to 
attach to it, and i^jx^cially he is apt to suppose spiritual 
beings standing over the diviner or the gambler, shuffling the 
lots or turning up the dice to make them give their answers. 
This view held its place firmly in the middle ages, and 
later in history we still find games of chance looked on as 
results of supernatural o^x'ration. The general change from 
mediteval to mcKlern notions in this resj:)ect is well shown 
in a remarkable work p)ublished in 1619, which seems to 
have done much toward bringing the change about. Thomas 
(iataker, a Ihiritan minister, in his treatise ' Of the Nature 
and Us<‘ of Lots,’ states, in order to combat them, the fol- 
lowing among the current objections made against games of 
chance Lots may not be used but with great reverence, 
lx‘causc the disposition of them commeth immediately from 
God the nature of a Lot, which is affirmed to 

l>ee a worke of (lOcl-* sjx'ciall and immediate providence, a 
sacred orade, a divine judgement or sentence : the light use 
of it therefore to be an abust^ of Gods name ; and so a sinne 
against the third ( ummandement.’ (irataker, in opposition 
to this, argues that ' to exjx'ct the issue and event of it. as 
by ordinari(‘ meanes from (ukI, is common to all actions ; 
to exjKTt it by an immediate and extraordinarie worke is no 
more law full here than elst*wherc, yea is indeed mere super- 
stiti(m.'‘ It took time, however, for this opinion to become 
prevalent in the educated world. After a lapse of forty 
years, Jt'nany Taylor could still bring out a remnant of the 

* Tacit. Germania. 10. 

* Smith s ‘ Die. of Gr. and Rom. Ant.,* arts. ' oraculum/ ‘ sortes.’ 

® Roberts, ' Oriental Illustrations/ p. tO;. 

* Gataker, pp. 91, 141 . sec Lccky, * History of Rationalism/ vol. i, p, 30;;^. 



older notion, in the course of a generally reasonable argu- 
ment in favour of games of chance when played for refresh- 
ment and not for money. ' I have heard,’ he says, ‘ from 
.them that have skill in such things, there are such strange 
chances, such promoting of a hand by fancy and little arts 
of geomancy, such constant winning on one side, such 
unreasonable losses on the other, and these strange con- 
tingencies produce such horrible effects, that it is not 
improbable that God hath permitted the conduct of such 
games of chance to the devil, who will order them so where 
he can do most mischief ; but, without the instrumentality 
of money, he could do nothing at all.’^ With what vitality 
the notion of supernatural interference in games of chance 
even now survives in Europe, is well shown by the still 
flourishing arts of gambler’s magic. The folk-lore of our 
own day continues to teach that a Good Friday’s egg is to 
be carried for luck in gaming, and that a turn of one’s chair 
will turn one’s fortune ; the Tyrolese knows the charm for 
getting from the devil the gift of winning at cards and dice ; 
there is still a great sale on the continent for books which 
show how to discover, from dreams, good numbers for the 
lottery ; and the Lusatian peasant will even hide his lottery- 
tickets under the altar-cloth that they may receive the 
blessing with the sacrament, and so stand a better chance 
of winning.* 

Arts of divination and games of chance are so similar in 
principle, that the very same instrument passes from one 
use to the other. This appears in the accounts, very 
suggestive from this point of view, of the Polynesian art of 
divination by spinning the ‘ niu ' or coco-nut. In the 
Tongan Islands, in Mariner's time, the principal purpose 
for which this was solemnly performed was to enquire if a 
sick person would recover ; prayer was made aloud to the 
patron god of the family to direct the nut, which was then 
spun, and its direction at rest indicated the intention of the 

* Jeremy Taylor, * Doctor Dubitantium,* in Works, vol. xiv, p. 337. 

- Sec Wuttke, ‘ Deutsche VoOtsaberglaube,* pp. 95, 1 1 1;, 178. 



god. On other occasions, when the coco-nnt was merely 
spun for amusement, no prayer was made, and no credit 
given to the result. Here the serious and the sponive use 
of this rudimentary teetotum are found together. In the- 
Samoan Islands, however, at a later date, the Rev. G. 
Turner finds the practice passed into a different stage. A 
party sit in a circle, the coco-nut is spun in the middle, 
and the oracular answer is according to the {person towards 
whom the monkey-face of the fruit is turned when it stops ; 
but whereas formerly the Samoans used this as an art of 
divination to discover thieves, now they only keep it up as a 
way of casting lots, and as a game of forfeits.^ It is in 
favour of the view of serious divination being the earlier 
use, to notice that the New Zealanders, though they have 
no coco-nuts, keep up a trace of the time when their 
ancestors in the tropical islands had them amd divined with 
them ; for it is the well-known Polynesian word ‘ niu,* i.e. 
coco-nut, which is still retained in use among the Maoris 
for other kinds of divination, especially that performed with 
sticks. Mr. Taylor, who points out this ciuiously neat 
piece of ethnological evidence, records another case to the 
present purpose. A method of divination was to clap the 
hands together while a proper charm was repeated ; if the 
fingers went clear in, it was favourable, but a check was an 
ill omen ; on the question of a party crossing the country 
in w^ar-time, the locking of all the fingers, or the stoppage 
of some or all, were naturally interpreted to mean clear 
passage, meeting a travelling party, or being stopped alto- 
gether. This quaint little symbolic art of divination seems 
now only to survive as a game ; it is cafied ‘ puni-puni. 

A similar connexion between divination and gambling is 
shown by more familiar instruments. The huckiebones or 
astragali were used in divination in ancient Rome, being 
converted into rude dice by numbering the four sides, and 

* Mariner, ‘Tonga hland*/ vol. ii. p. 2^9 ; Turner, ‘ Polynesia,' p. 214 • 
VVilliam«, ‘ Fiji,’ vol. i. p. 228. Compare Cranr, ‘ Gronland,’ p. 231. 

® R. Taylor, ‘ New Zealand,' pp. 206, 348. 38-. 



even when the Roman gambler used the tali for gambling, 
he would invoke a god or his mistress before he made his 
throw. ^ Such implements are now mostly used for play, 
but, nevertheless, their use for divination was by no means 
confined to the ancient world, for hucklebones are men- 
tioned in the 17th century among the fortune-telling instal- 
ments which young girls divined for husbands with,* and 
Negro sorcerers still throw dice as a means of detecting 
thieves.* Lots serve the two purposes equally well. The 
Chinese gamble by lots for cash and sweetmeats, whilst 
they also seriously take omens by solemn ajipeals to the 
lots kept ready for the purpose in the temples, and pro- 
fessional diviners sit in the market-places, thus to open the 
future to their customers.* Playing-cards are still in Euro- 
pean use for divination. That early sort known as ‘ tarots ’ 
which the French dealer's license to sell ‘ cartes ct tarots ' 
still keeps in mind, is said to be preferred by fortune-tellers 
to the common kind ; for the tarot-pack, w^ith its more 
numerous and complex figures, lends itself to a greater 
variety of omens. In these cases, direct hi^tory fails to tell 
us whether the use of the instrument for omen or play came 
first. In this respect, the history of the (»reek ‘ kottabos ' 
is instructive. This art of divination consisted in fiinging 
wine out of a cup into a metal ba^in some distance off with- 
out spilling any, the thrower saying or thinking his mis- 
tress's name, and judging from the clear or dull splash of 
the wine on the metal what his fortune in love would be ; 
but in time the magic passt'd out of the pr(K:css, and it 
became a mere game of dexterity played for a prize.* If 
this be a typical case, and the rule be relied on that the 
serious use precedc^s the playful, then games of chance 
may be considered survivals in principle or detail from 

' Smith’s Die., art. ‘ talus.* 

* Brand, ‘ Popular Antiquities,’ vol. ii. p. 412. 

* D. & C. Livingstone, ‘ Exp. toiJambesi,’ p. 51. 

* Doolittle, ‘ Chinese,’ vol. ii. pp. 108, sec 384 ^ Hastian, ' Oestl. 

Asien,’ vol. iii. pp. 76, 125. 

* Smith’s Die., art. ‘ cottabos.* 


corresponding processes of magic — as divination in sport 
made gambling in earnest. 

Seeking more examples of the lasting on of fixed habits 
among mankind, let us glance at a group of time-honoured 
traditional sayings, old saws which have a special interest 
as cases of survival. Even when the real signification of 
these phrasi‘s has faded out of men's mipds, and they have 
sunk into sheer nonsense, or have been overlaid with some 
modern su{x*rficial meaning,- still the old formulas are 
handed f>n, often gaining more in mystery than they los<3 in 
sense. We may hear people talk of * buying a pig in a 
poke,’ \vhos(‘ acquaintance with English does not extend to 
knowing \\ hat a poke is. And certainly those who wish tosay 
that they have a great mind to something, 'and who express 
ihemselviS by declaring that they have ' a month’s mind ' 
to It, can have no conception of the hopt^less nonsens<‘ they 
are making of tlie old term of the ‘ month’s mind,’ which 
was really the monthly service for a dead man's soul, 
whereby he was kept in mind or remembrance. The projx^r 
sense of the phrase ‘ sowing his wild oats ' secerns generally 
lost in our modern use of it. Xo doubt it c>nce implied that 
theses ill wet?ds v^xaild spring up in later years, and how hard 
It would then be to i\K)i them out. Like the enemy in the 
])arable, the Scandinavian Loki, the mischief-maker, is pro- 
verbially said in Jutland to sow las oats (' nu saaer Lokken 
sin havre ’), and the name of * Loki’s oats ' (Lokeshavre) is 
given in Danish the wild oats (avena fatua).* Sayings 
which have then source in some obsolete custom or talc, of 
course Tie es|K‘Cially open to ^uch ill-usage. It has bt‘Come 
mere English to talk of an ‘ unheked cub ’ who ' wants 
licking into shajH,’ while few remember the explanation of 
these phrases fri>m Pliny's story that bears art* born as 
eyeless, hairless, shapeless lumps of white flesh, and hav'e 
afterwards to lx* licked into form.® 

Again, in relics of old magic and religion, we have some- 

* Grimm, ‘ Deutsche Myth.’ p. izi. 

* Plin. viii. 54,. 



times to look for a deeper sense in conventional phrases 
than they now carry on their face, or for a real meaning in 
what now seems nonsense. How an ethnographical record 
may become embodied in a popular saying, a Tamil proverb 
now current in South India will show prefect ly. On occa- 
sions when A hits B, and C cries out at the blow, the 
b5;standers will say, * Tis like a Koravan eating asafoetida 
when his wife lies in ! * Now a Koravan belongs to a low 
race in Madras, and is defined as ‘ gipsy, wanderer, ass- 
driver, thief, eater of rats, dweller in mat tents, fortune- 
teller, and suspected character ; * and the explanation of 
the proverb is, that whereas native women generally eat 
asafoetida as strengthening medicine after childbirth, among 
the Koravans it is the husband who eats it to fortify himself 
on the occasion- This, in fact, is a variety of the world- 
wide custom of the ‘ couvade,' where at childbirth the 
husband undergoes medical treatment, in many cases being 
put to bed for days. It appears that the Koravans are 
among the races practising this quaint custom, and that 
their more civilized Tamil neighbours, struck by its oddity, 
but unconscious of its now-forgotten meaning, have taken it 
up into a proverb.^ Let us now apply the same sort of 
ethnographical key to dark sayings in our own modem 
language. The maxim, a ‘hair of the dog that bit you' 
was originally neither a metaphor nor a joke, but a matter- 
of-fact recipe for curing the bite of a dog, one of the many 
instances of the ancient homoeopathic doctrine, that what 
hurts will also cure : it is mentioned in the Scandinavian 
Edda, ' Dog's hair heals dog's bite.'» The phrase ‘ raising 
the wind ' now passes as humorous slang, but it once, in 
all seriousness, described one of the most dreaded of the 
sorcerer's arts, practised esp>ecially by the Finland wizards, 
of whose uncanny power over the weather our sailors have 
not to this day forgotten their old terror. The ancient 

' From a letter of Mr. H. J. Stokes, Negapatam, to Mr. F. M, Jenning$. 
General details of the Couvade in * Early History of Mankind,* p. 291. 

* Havamil, 138. 



ceremony or ordeal of passing through a fire or leaping over 
burning brands has t^n kept up so vigorously in the 
British Isles, that Jany^on's derivation of the phrase * to 
haul over the coals * tpni this rite appears in no way far- 
fetched. It is not Ijrag since an Irishwoman in New York 
was tried for killW h6ir child ; she had made it stand on 
burning coals to find out whether it was really her own or a 
changeling.^ The English nurse who says to a fretful child, 

* You got out of bed wrong foot foremost this morning,* 
seldom or never knows the meaning of her saying ; but this 
is still plain in the German ^folk-lore rule, that to get out of 
bed left foot first will bring A bad day,* one of the many 
examples of that simple as^iation of ideas which connects 
right and with good^tM bad respectively. To conclude, 
the phra^ * cheatipg^re devil * seems to belong to that 
familiar l^ries^ef^gen^ w'here a man makes a compact 
with the jfehd, but at tAe last moment gets off scot-free by 
the interposition of a saint, or by some absurd evasion — 
such as whistling the gospel he has bound himself not to 
say, or refusing to complete his bargain at the fall of-'the 
leaf, on the plea that the sculptured leaves in the chui^ 
are still on their boughs. One form of the /mediaeval 
compact was for the demon, when he had taught\his b l^ck 
art to a class of scholars, to seize one of them for^s pro- 
fessional fee, by letting them all run for their li^ and 
catching the last — a story obviously connected with ar^other 
popular saying : * devil take the hindmost.' 'But ev^n at 
this game the stupid fiend may be cheated, as is told irt the 
folk-lore of Spain and Scotland, in the le^nds of \the 
Marqu6s de VUlano and the Earl of Southesk, ^h^ attended 
the Devil's magic schools at Salamanca and Pajdu^. ThCy 
apt scholar only leaves the master his shadow ti-putcH ad 
following hindmost in the race, and with this unsUbstaimial 
payment the demon must needs be satisfiedywhileipe 

' Jamieson, ' Scott iah Dictionary/ ».v. * coals * ; R, Hufi^ Popular Ro- 
mances/ 1st ser. p, 83. 

* Wuttke, * Volksaberglaube/ p. 131. 



new-made magician goes forth free, but ever after shadow- 


It seems a fair inference to think folk-lore nearest to its 
source where it has its highest place and meaning. Thus, 
if some old rhyme or saying has in one place a solemn 
import in philosophy or religion, while elsewhere it lies at 
the level of the nursery, there is some ground for treating 
the serious version as the more original, and the playful one 
as its mere lingering survival. The argument is not safe, 
but yet is not to be quite overlooked. For instance, 
there are two poems kept in remembrance among the 
modern Jews, and printed at the end of their book of Pass- 
over services in Hebrew and English. One is that known 
as KHJ (Chad gadya) : it begins, ' A kid, a kid, my 
father bought for two pieces of money ; ' and it goes on to 
tell how a cat came and ate the kid, and a dog came and bit 
the cat, and so on to the end. — ' Then came the Holy One, 
blessed be He ! and slew the angel of death, who slew the 
butcher, who killed the ox, that drank the water, that 
quenched the fire, that burnt the stick, that beat the dog, 
that bit the cat, that ate the kid, that my father bought for 
two pieces of money, a kid, a kid.' This rom[X)sition is in 
the ‘ Sepher Haggadah,' and is looked on by some Jews as 
a parable concerning the past and future of the Holy Land. 
According to one interpretation, Palestine, the kid, is de- 
voured by Babylon the cat ; Babylon is overthrown by 
Persia, Persia by Greece, (Greece by Rome, till at last the 
Turks prevail in the land ; but the Edomites (i.e. the 
nations of Europe) shall drive out the Turks, the angel of 
death shall destroy the enemies of Israel, and his children 
shall be restored under the rule of Messiah. Irres{X‘ctively 
of any such particular interpretation, the solemnity of the 
ending may incline us to think that we really have the 
composition here in something like its first form, and that it 

' RochhoU, ‘ Dcutschcr Glaube und Brauch,’ vol. i. p. 120 ^ R. Chamber*, 

‘ Popular Rhyme* of Scotland/ Miscellaneous ; Grimm, pp. 969, 976 ; 
Wurtke, p. 1 15. 



was written to convey a mystic meaning. If so, then it 
follows that our familiar nursery tale of the old woman who 
couldn't get her kid (or pig) over the stile, and wouldn’t 
get home till midnight, must be considered a broken-down 
adaptation of this old Jewish poem. The other composition 
is a counting-poem, and begins thus : 

‘ Who knoweth one ? 1 (saith Israel) know One : 

One is God, who is over heaven and earth. 

Who knoweth two ? I (saith Israel) know two : 

Two tables of the covenant ; but One is our God who is over 
the heavens and the earth.' 

(And SO forth, accumulating up to the last verse, which 


‘ Who knoweth thirteen ? I (saith Israel) know thirteen : 
Thirteen divine attributes, twelve tribe#, eleven stars, ten com- 
mandments, nine months preceding childbirth, eight days pre- 
ceding circumcision, seven days of the week, six books of the 
Mishnah, five books of the Law, four matrons, three patriarchs, 
two tables of the covenant; but One it our God who is over the 
heavens and the earth.' 

This is one of a family of counting-poems, apparently 
held in much favour in mediaeval Christian times, for they 
are not yet quite forgotten in country places. An old Latin 
version runs ; 'Unus est Deus,' &c., and one of the still- 
surviving English forms begins, ‘ One's One all alone, and 
evermore shall be so,* thence reckoning on as far as 
* Twelve the twelve apostles.* Here both the Jewish and 
Christian forms are or have been serious, so it is possible 
that the Jew may have imitated the Christian, but the 
nobler form of the Hebrew poem here again gives it a 
claim to be thought the earlier.* 

The old proverbs brought down by long inheritance into 
our modem tadk are far from being insignificant in them- 
selves, for their wit is often as fresh, and their wisdom as 

* Mendes, ‘ Service for the First Nights of Passover,* London, i86z (in 
the Jewish interpretation the word sbunra^ — * cat,’ is compared with 
sbinar), H alii well, ‘ Nursery Rhymes,* p. 288 ; * Popular Rhyme#,* p. 6. 



pertinent, as it ever was. Beyond these practical qualities, 
proverbs are instructive for the place in ethnography which 
they occupy. ’ Their range in civilization is limited ; they 
seem scarcely to belong to the lowest tribes, but appear 
first in a settled form among some of the higher savages. 
The Fijians, who were found a few years since living in what 
archaeologists might call the upper Stone Age, have some 
well-marked proverbs. They laugh at want of forethought 
by the saying that ‘ The Nakondo people cut the mast 
first ' (i.e. before they had built the canoe) ; and when a 
poor man looks wistfully at what he cannot buy, they say, 
' Becalmed, and looking at the fish.'^ Among the list of 
the New Zealanders* ' whakatauki,' or proverbs, one de- 
scribes a lazy glutton : ‘ Deep throat, but shallow sinews ; ' 
another says that the lazy often profit by the work of the in- 
dustrious : ‘ The large chips made by Hardwood fall to the 
share of Sit-still ; * a third moralizes that 'A crooked part 
of a stem of toetoe can be seen ; but a crooked part in the 
heart cannot be seen.’* Among the Basutos of South 
Africa, ' Water never gets tired of running ' is a reproach 
to chatterers; ’Lions growl while they are eating,’ means 
that there are people who never will enjoy anything ; ’ The 
sowing-month is the headache-month,’ describes those 
lazy folks who make excuses when work is to be done ; 
’ The thief eats thunderbolts,’ means that he will bring 
down vengeance from heaven on himself.* West African 
nations are especially strong in proverbial philosophy ; so 
much so that Captain Burton amused himself through the 
rainy season at Fernando Po in compiling a volume of 
native proverbs,* among which there are hundreds at about 
as high an intellectual level as those of Europe. ’ He fled 
from the sword and hid in the scabbard,’ is as good as our 

^ William*, ‘ Fiji,* vol. i. p. no. 

* Shortland,/ Tradition* of N. Z.* p 196. 

* Casalis, * Etudes sur la lanf^e S^chuana.’ 

* R. F. Burton, * Wit and Wisdom from West Africa.’ Sec also Waite, 
vol. ii. p. 245. 



‘ Out of the frying-pan into the fire ; ' and ' He who has 
only his eyebrow for a cross-bow t:an never kill an animal/ 
is more picturesque, if less terse than our * Hard words 
break no bones/ The old Buddhist aphorism, that ‘ He 
who indulges in enmity is like one who throws ashes to 
windward, which come back to the same place and cover 
him all over,' is put with less prose and as much point in 
the negro saying, ‘ Ashes fly back in the face of him who 
throws them/ When someone tries to settle an affair in 
the absence of the people concerned, the negroes will object 
that ‘ You can’t shave a man's head when he is not there/ 
while, to explain that the master is not to be judged by the 
folly of his servant, they say, 'The rider is not a fool 
because the horse is/ Ingratitude is alluded to in * The 
sword kno\\'s not the head of the smith ' (who made it), 
and yet more forcibly elsewhere, ' When the calabash had 
saved them (in the famine), they said, let us cut it for a 
drinking-cup/ The popular contempt for poor men’s 
wisdom IS put very neatly in the maxim, ‘ When a poor 
man makes a proverb it does not spread,’ while the very 
mention of making a proverb as something likely to happen, 
shows a land where proverb-making is still a living art. 
Transplanted to the Wc^st Indies, the African keej^)s up this 
art, as witness these sayings : ' Behind dog it is dog, but 
before dog it is Mr. IX>g ; ’ and ' Toute cabinette tini 
maringouin ’ - ' Every cabin has its mosquito/ 

The proverb has not changed its character in the course 
of history ; but has retained from first to last a precisely 
definite typ(\ The proverbial sayings recorded among the 
higher nations of the world arc to be reckomxl by tens of 
thousands, and have a large and well-known literature of 
their own. But though the range of existence of proverbs 
extends into the highest levels of civilization, this is scarcely 
true of their development. At the level of European culture 
in the middle ages, they have indeed a vast importance in 
popular education, but their period of actual growth seems 
already at an end. Cervantes raised the proverb-monger's 



craft to a pitch it never surpassed ; but it must not be for- 
gotten that the incomparable Sancho's wares were mostly 
heirlooms ; for proverbs .were even then sinking to remnants 
of an earlier condition of society. As such, they survive 
among ourselves, who go on using much the same relics of 
ancestral wisdom as came out of the squire's inexhaustible 
budget, old saws not to be lightly altered or made anew in 
our changed modern times. We can collect and use the 
old proverbs, but making neW ones has become a feeble, 
spiritless imitation, like our attempts to invent new myths 
or new nursery rhymes. 

Riddles start near proverbs in the history of civilization, 
and they travel on long together, though at last towards 
different ends. By riddles are here meant the old-fashioned 
problems with aVeal answer intended to be discovered, such 
as the typical enigma of the Sphinx, but not the modem 
■* verbal conundrums set in the traditional form of question 
and answ^, as a way of bringing in a jest i propos of no- 
thiiig^ The original kind, Which may be defined as ‘ sense- 
riddles,' are found at home among the upper savages, and 
range on into the lower and middle civilization ; and while 
their growth stops at this level, many ancient s{>ecimens 
have lasted on in the modem nursery and by the cottage 
fireside. There is a plain reason why riddles should belong 
only to the higher grades of savagery ; their making requires 
a fair power of ideal comparison, and knowledge must have 
made considerable advance before this process could be- 
come so familiar as to fall from earnest into sport. last, 
in a far higher state of culture, riddles begin to beT66ked 
on as trifling, their growth ceases, and they only survive 
in remnants for children's play. Some examples chosen 
among various races, from savagery upwards, will show 
more exactly the place in mental history which the riddle 

The following are specimens from a collection of Zulu 
riddles, recorded with quaintly simple native comments on 
the philosophy of the matter : — Q, * Guess ye some men 



who are many and form a row ; they dance the wedding- 
dance, adorned in white hip-dresses ? ' A. ' The teeth ; 
we call them men who form a row, for the teeth stand 
like men who are made ready for a wedding-dance, that 
they may dance well. When we say, they are adorned 
with white hip-dresses/* we put that in, that people may 
not at once think of teeth, but be draw:n away from them 
by thinking, “ It is men who put on white hip-dresses, ' 
and continually have their thoughts fixed on men,' &c, 
Q. ‘ Guess ye a man who does not lie down at night : he 
lies down in the morning until the sun sets ; he then 
awakes, and works all night ; he does not work by day ; 
he is not seen when he works ? ' A, ' The closing-poles 
of the cattle-pen.’ Q. ‘ Guess ye a man whom men do not 
like to laugh, for it is known that his laughter is a very 
great evil, and is followed by lamentation, and an end 
of rejoicing. Men w('e]>, and trees, and grass ; and every- 
thing is heard weeping in the tribe where he laughs ; 
and they say the man luis laughed who doc^s not usually 
laugh ? * .1. ‘ Fire. It is called a man that what is said 

may not be at once evident, it being concealed by the 
word " man." Men say many things, searching out the 
meaning in rivaJry’T <and missing the mark. A riddle is 
good when it is not discernible at uiice,’ cScc.‘ Among 
the Basutos, riddles are a recognized part of education, 
and are set like exercises to a whole company of puzzled 
children. Q, ‘ Dii you know what throws itself from 
the mountain top without being broken ? ’ .1. ‘ A water- 
fall.' (). ' There is a thing that travels fast witluvut legs 
or wings, and no ( litf. nor river, nor wall can stop it ? 
A. ' The voice.’ ' Namt* the ten trees with ten flat 
stom*s on the top of them.’ A. ‘ The fingers.’ Q. ‘ Who 
is the little imniiwable dumb boy who is dressed up warm 
in the day and left naked at night?’ A, ‘The bed- 
clothes’ jX'g.'* From East Africa, this Swahili riddle is an 

* Callaway, * Nursery Talcs, &c. of vol. i. p. ;;64, Jkc. 

* Casalis, * Etudes sur l.i Kinguc S<Jchuan.i,' p. 91 ; ‘ Basuto.s/ p. 337. 



example : Q * My hen has laid among thorns ? ’ A.* A 

pineapple.*^ From West Africa, this Yoruba one: ‘A 
long slender trading woman who never gets to market ? ' 

' A. * A canoe (it stops at the landing-place).'* In Poly- 
nesia, the Samoan Islanders are given to riddles. Q, 

‘ There are four brothers, who are always bearing about 
their father? ' A: ‘The Samoan pillow,' which is a yard 
of three-inch bamboo resting on four legs. Q. * A white- 
headed man stands above ‘ the fence, and reaches to 
the heavens ? ' A, ' The smoke of the oven.' Q, * A 
man who stands between two ravenous fish ? * A. * The 
tongue.’* (There is a Zulu riddle like this, which com- 
pares the tongue to a man living in the midst of enemies 
fighting.) The following are old Mexican enigmas : Q, 
‘ What pre the ten stones one has at his sides ? ' A. ' The 
finger-nails,’ Q, ‘ What is it we get into by three parts 
and out of by one ? * A.* A shirt.' Q. ‘ What goes through 
a valley and drags its entrails after it ? ' ' A needle.'* 

These riddles foimd among the lower races do not differ 
at all in nature from those that have come down, sometimes 
modernized in the setting, into the nursery lore of Europe. 
Thus Spanish children still ask, ‘ WTiat is-the dish of nuts 
that is gathered by day, and scattered by night ? ' (the 
stars.) Our English riddle of the pair of tongs : ' Long 
legs, crooked thighs, little head, and no eyes,' is primitive 
enough to have been made by a South Sea Islander. The 
following is on the same theme as one of the Zulu riddles : 
‘A flock of white sheep. On a red hill ; Here they go, there 
they go ; Now they stand still ?' Another is tfte very 
analogue of one of the Aztec specimens : * Old Mother 
Twitchett had but one eye, And a long tail which she let fly; 

' Stccre, * Swahili Talcs,* p. 418, 

* Burton, ‘ Wit and Wisdom from West Africa,* p. 212. 

* Turner, * Polynesia,* p. 216. See Polack, * New i^ealanders,' voi. ii. 
p. 171. 

* Sahagun, * Historia de Nueva Espafia,* in Kingsborough*s * Antiquities 
of Mexico,' vol. vii. p. 178. 



And every time she went over a gap. She left a bit of her 
tail in a trap ?' 

So thoroughly does riddle-making belong to the m)rtho- 
logic stage of thought, that any poet's simile, if not too far- 
fetched, needs only inversion to be made at once into an 
enigma. The Hindu calls the Sun Saptasva, i.e. ‘ seven- 
horsed,' while, with the same thought, the old German riddle 
asks, ' What is the chariot drawn by the seven white and 
seven black horses ? ' (the year, drawn by the seven d2iys and 
nights of the week.*) Such, too, is the Greek riddle of the 
two sisters, Day and Night, who gave birth each to the other 
to be bom of her again : 

Eifl’i KMlyrrfrai Mitral, Cjp ^ fila rUrti 
Tifp rtKOMr inrb reKt^ovrai ; 

and the enigma of Kleoboulos, with its other like fragments 
of rudimentary mythology : 

Eff 6 mrbp, xat^i bi SvutSftca- rCfP bi y iKdanp 
llaldff Icurt Ajrdixa tlbof ixovattr 

H« flip \€VKal ioffw if y ain't ^XaiPOi’ 

'A^draroi r ^aOaat dwo^lpouct* Axairai. 

* One U the father, dnd twelve the children, and, bom unto each one. 
Maidens thirty, whose form in twain is parted asunder, 

White to oehold on the one side, black to behold on the other, 

All immortal in being, yet doomed to dwindle and perish.** 

Such questions as these may be fairly guessed now as in old 
times, and must be distinguished from that scarcer class 
which ijpquire the divination of some unlikely event to solve 
them. Of such the typical example is Samson’s riddle, 
and there Ls an old Scandinavian one like it. The story is 
tliat Gestr found a duck sitting on her nest in an ox's 
homed skull, and thereupon propounded a riddle, describing 
with characteristic Northman’s metaphor the ox with its 
horns fancied as already made into drinking-horns. The 
following translation does not exaggerate the quaintness of 

* Grimm, p. 699, 

* Diog. Laert. i. 91 ; Athenagorat. x, 451 . 



the original : — * Joying in children the bill-goose grew. 
And her building-timbers together drew ; The biting grass- 
shearer screened her bed, With the maddening drink-stream 
overhead.*^ Many of the old oracular responses are puzzles 
of precisely this kind. Such is the story of the Delphic 
oracle, which ordered Temenos to find a man with three 
eyes to guide the army, which injunction he fulfilled by 
meeting a one-eyed man on horseback.* It is curious to 
find this idea again in Scandinavia, where Odin sets King 
Heidrek a riddle, ‘ Who are they two that fare to the 
Thing with three eyes, ten feet, and one tail ?' the answer 
being, the one-eyed Odin himself on his eight-footed horse 

The close bearing of the doctrine of survival on the study 
of manners and customs is constantly coming into view 
in ethnographic research. It seems scarcely too much to 
assert, once for all, that meaningless customs must be sur- 
vivals, that they had a practical, or at least ceremonial, 
intention when and where they first arose, but are now fallen 
into absurdity from having been carried on into a new state 
of society, where their original sense has been discarded. 
Of course, new customs introduced in particular ages may 
be ridiculous or wicked, but as a rule they have discernible 
motives. Explanations of this kind, by recourse to some 
forgotten meaning, seem on the whole to account best for 
obscure customs which some have set down to mere out- 
breaks of spontaneous folly. A certain Zimmermann, who 
published a heavy ‘ Geographical History of Mankind ' in 
the i8th century, remarks as follow^s on the prevalence of 
similar nonsensical and stupid customs in distant coun- 

^ Mannhardi’a ‘Zcitschr. fiir Deutsche Mythologie,’ vol, iii. p. 2 , «5tc. : 

‘ N 6 g er forthun nosgis vaxtn, 

Barngiorn su er bar butimbr saman ; 

Hlifthu henni halms bitskiklmir, 

Th 6 li drykkjar drynhronn yfir/ 

* See Grotc, * Hist, of Greece,’ vol. ii. p. 5 . 

* Mannhardc’s ‘ Zcitschr.’ l.c. 



tries : — ' For if two clever heads may, each for himself, hit 
upon a clever invention or discovery, then it is far likelier, 
considering the much larger total of fools and blockheads, 
that like fooleries should be given to two far-distant lands. 
If, then, the inventive fool be likewise a man of importance 
and influence, as is, indeed, an extremely frequent case, 
then both nations adopt a similar folly, and then, centuries 
after, some historian goes through it to extract his evidence 
for the derivation of these two nations one from the 

Strong views as to the folly of mankind seem to have 
been in the air about the time of the French Revolution. 
Lord Chesterfield was no doubt an extremely different 
person from our German philosopher, but they were quite 
at one as to the absurdity of customs. Advising his son 
as to the etiquette of courts, the Earl writes thus to him : — 

‘ For example, it is respectful to bow to the King of 
England, it is disrespectful to bow to the King of France ; 
it is the rule to courtesy to the Emperor ; and the prostra- 
tion of the whole body is required by Eastern Monarchs. 
These are established ceremonies, and must be complied 
with ; but why they were established, I defy sense and 
reason to tell us. It is the same among all ranks, where 
certain customs are received, and must necessarily be com- 
plied with, though by no means the result of sense and 
reason. As for instance, the very absurd, though almost 
universal custom of drinking people's healths. Can there 
be anything in the world less relative to any other man's 
health, than my drinking a glass of wine ? Common sense, 
certainly, never pointed it out, but yet common sense tells 
me I must conform to it.'* Now, though it might be 
difficult enough to make sense of the minor details of 
court etiquette. Lord Chesterfield's example from it of 

' E. A. W. Zlmmermann, * Geographische Gcschichtc dcs Mcnschcn/ Jlcc., 
1778-83, vol. lit. Sec Profestor RoUcston's Inaugural Address, British 
Association, 1870. 

* Earl of Chesterfield, * Letters to his Son,’ vol. ii. No. Ixviii. 



the irrationality of mankind is a singularly unlucky one. 
Indeed, if any one were told to set forth in few words the 
relations of the people to their rulers in different states of 
society, he might answer that men grovel on their faces 
before the King of Siam, kneel on one knee or uncover 
before a European monarch, and shake the hand of the 
President of the United States as though it were a pump- 
handle. These are ceremonies at once intelligible and 
significant. Lord Chesterfield is more fortunate in his 
second instance, for the custom of drinking healths is really 
of obscure origin. Yet it is closely connected with an 
ancient rite, practically absurd indeed, but done with a 
conscious and serious intention which lands it quite outside 
the region of nonsense. This is the custom of pouring out 
libations and drinking at ceremonial banquets to gods and 
the dead. Thus the old Northmen drank the ' minni ‘ of 
Thor, Odin, and Freya, and of kings likewise at their 
funerals. The custom did not die out with the conversion 
of the Scandinavian and Teutonic nations. Such formulas 
as * God's minne ! * ‘a bowl to God in heaven ! ' are on 
record, whDe in like manner Christ, Mary, and the Saints 
were drunk to in place of heathen gods and heroes, and 
the habit of drinking to the dead and the living at the 
same feast and in similar terms goes far to prove here a 
common origin for both ceremonies. The ‘ minne ' was 
at once love, memory, and the thought of the absent, 
and it long survived in England in the * minnying ' or 
' mynde * days, on which the memory of the dead was cele- 
brated by services or banquets. Such evidence as this 
fairly justifies the writers, older and newer, who have 
treated these ceremonial drinking asages as in their nature 
sacrificial.* As for the practice of simply drinking the 
health of living men, its ancient history reaches us from 
several districts inhabited by Aryan nations. The Greeks 

* See Hylten-Cavaliius, * Warend och Wirdarnc/ vol. i. pp. 161-70; 
Grimm, pp. 52-5, 1201 ; Brand, vol. ii. pp. 314, 325, Jic. 



in symposium drank to one another, and the Romans 
adopted the habit {wpwivtiv, propinare, Graeco more bibere). 
The Goths cried ‘ hails ! ' as they pledged each other, as 
we have it in the curious first line of the verses ‘ De 
conviviis barbauis’ in the Latin Anthology, which sets 
down the shouts of a Gothic drinking-bout of the fifth 
century or so, in words which still partly keep their sense 
to an English ear . 

* Inter tils Goticum scapiamaiziaia drincan 
Non audct quUquam dignot cducerc versus/ 

As for ourselves, though the old drinking salutation of 
' waes hael ? ' is no longer vulgar English, the formula 
remains with us, stiffened into a noun. On the whole, 
there is presumptive though not conclusive evidence that 
the custom of drinking healths to the living is historically 
related to the religious rite of drinking to the gods and 
the dead. 

Let us now put the theory of survival to a somewhat 
severe test, by stacking from it some explanation of the 
existence, in practice or memory, within the limits of 
modem civilized society, of three remarkable groups of 
customs which civilized ideas totally fail to account for. 
Though we may not succeed in giving clear and absolute 
explanations of their motives, at any rate it is a step in 
advance to be able to refer their origins to savage or 
barbaric antiquity. Looking at these customs from the 
modern jpractical point of view, one is ridiculous, the others 
are atriKious, and all are senseless. The first is the prac- 
tice of salutation on sneezing, the second the rite of laying 
the foundations of a building on a human victim, the third 
the prejudice against sa\nng a dro^^ming man. 

In interpreting the customs connected with sneezing, it 
is needful to recognize a prevalent doctrine of the lower 
races, of which a full account will be given in another 
chapter. As a man's soul is considered to go in and out 
of his body, so it is with other spirits, particularly such as 



enter into patients and possess them or afflict them with 
disease. Among the less cultured races, the connexion of 
this idea with sneezing is best shown among the Zulus, a 
people firmly persuaded that kindly or angry spirits of the 
dead hover about them, do them good or harm, stand 
visibly before them in dreams, enter into them, and cause 
diseases in them.. The following particulars are abridged 
from the native statements taken down by Dr. Callaway : — 
When a Zulu sneezes, he will say, ' I am now blessed. 
The Idhlozi (ancestral spirit) is with me ; it has come to 
me. Let me hasten and praise it, for it is it which causes 
me to sneeze ! ' So he praises the manes of his family, 
asking for cattle, and wives, and blessings. Sneezing is a 
sign that a sick person will be restored to health ; he 
returns thanks after sneezing, saying, ‘ Ye people of ours, 
I have gained that prosperity which I wanted. Continue 
to look on me with favour I ' Sneezing reminds a man 
that he should name the Itongo (ancestral spirit) of his 
people without delay, because it is the Itongo which causes 
him to sneeze, that he may perceive by sneezing that the 
Itongo is with him. If a man is ill and does not sneeze, 
those who come to him ask whether he has sneezed or not ; 
if he has not sneezed, they murmur, saying, ‘ The disease 
is great!* If a child sneezes, they say to it, * Grow!* it 
is a sign of health. So then, it is said, sneezing among 
black men gives a man strength to remember that the 
Itongo has entered into him and abides with him. The 
Zulu diviners or sorcerers are very apt to sneeze, which 
they regard as an indication of the presence of the spirits, 
whom they adore by saying, ‘ Makosi ! * (i.e, lords or 
masters). It is a suggestive example of the transition of 
such customs as these from one religion to another, that 
the Amakosa, who used to call on their divine ancestor 
Utixo when they sneezed, since their conversion to Chris- 
tianity say, 'Preserver, look upon me!* or, 'Creator of 
heaven and earth ! * ' Elsewhere in Africa, similar ideas 

' Callaway, ‘ Religion of Amazulu,* pp. 64, 222*5, 263. 



are mentioned. Sir Thomas Browne, in his ‘ Vulgar 
Errors,* made well known the story that when the King 
of Monomotapa sneezed, acclamations of blessing passed 
from mouth to mouth through the city ; but he should 
have mentioned that Godigno, from whom the original 
account is taken, said that this took place when the king 
drank, or coughed, or sneezed.' A later account from the 
other side of the continent is more to the purpose. In 
Guinea, in the last century, when a principal personage 
sneezed, all present fell on their knees, kissed the earth, 
clapped their hands, and wished him all happiness and 
prosperity.* With a different idea, the negroes of Old 
Calabar, when a child sneezes, will sometimes exclaim, 

' Far from you ! * with an appropriate gesture as if throw- 
ing off some evil.* Polynesia is another region where 
the sneezing salutation is well marked. In New Zealand, 
a charm was said to prevent evil when a child sneezed;* 
if a Samoan sneezed, the bystanders said, ‘ Life to you ! * ‘ 
while in the T<-)ngan group a sneeze on the starting of an 
expedition was a most evil presage.* A curious American 
instance dates from Hernando de Soto's famous expedition 
into Florida, when (niachoya, a native chief, came to pay 
him a visit. ‘ While this was going on, the cacique 
Guachoya gave a great sneeze ; the gentlemen who had 
come with him and were lining the walls of the hall among 
the Spaniards there all at once bowing their heads, opening 
their arms, and closing them again, and making other 
gt‘stures of great veneration and resjx'Ct, saluted him with 
different words, all directed to one end, saying, “ The Sun 
guard thee, be with thee, enlighten thee, magnify thee, 
protect thee, favour thee, defend thee, prosper thee, save 
thee,*’ and other like phrases, as the words came, and for a 

Godignus, Patris Gonzali Sylvcrisc.’ Col. Agripp. 1616; lib. ii. c. x. 

Bosman, ‘ Guinea/ letter xviii. in Pinkerton, vol. xvi. p. 478. 

Burton, ‘ Wit and Wijdom from Went Africa/ p. 375. 

Shortland, ^ Trads. of New Zealand/ p. 131. 

Turner, ‘ Polynesia/ p. 348 ; sec alto Williams, * Fiji,’ vol. i. p. 250. 

Mariner, ‘ Tonga Is.’ vol. i. p. 456. 



good space there lingered the murmur of these words among 
them, whereat the governor wondering said to the gentle- 
men and captains with him, “ Do you not see that all the 
world is one ? " This matter was well noted among the 
Spaniards, that among so barbarous a people should be 
used the same ceremonies, or greater, than among those 
who hold themselves to be very civilized. Whence it may 
be believed that this manner of salutation is natural among 
all nations, and not caused by a pestilence, as is vulgarly 
said,’ &c.^ 

In Asia and Europe the sneezing superstition extends 
through a wide range of race, age, and country.* Among 
the passages relating to it in the classic ages of Greece and 
Rome, the following are some of the most characteristic, — 
the lucky sneeze of Telemachos in the Odyssey ;• the 
soldier’s sneeze and the shout of adoration to the god which 
rose along the ranks, and which Xenophon appealed to as 
a favourable omen ;* Aristotle’s remark that people con- 
sider a sneeze as divine (t^i^ rf€v 0€hv cr^ai), 

but not a cough,* &c. ; the Greek epigram on the man with 
the long nose, who did not say Zcv <rwcrov when he sneezed, 
for the noise was too far off for him to hear ;• Petronius 
Arbiter's mention of the custom of saying ' Salve ! * to one 
who sneezed and Pliny’s question, ‘ Cur stemutamentis 
salutamus ? * apropos of which he remarks that even Tibe- 
rius Caesar, that saddest of men, exacted this observance.* 

^ Garcilaso de U Vega, ‘ Hist, dc la Florida,* voL iiL ch. xH., 

* Among dissertations on the subject, sec especially Sir Thot. Browne, 

* Pseudodoxia Epidemica * (Vulgar Errors), b<mk iv. chap. ix. ; Brand, 

* Popular Antiquities,* vol. iii. p. 119, dec,; R. G. Haliburton, ‘New 
Materials for the History of Man.* Halifax, N. S. 1863 ; * Encyclopaedia 
Britannica,* (5th cd.) art. * sneezing ;* Wemsdorf, * De Ritu Stemutantibus 
bene precandi.* Leipzig, 1741 ; see also Grimm, D. M. p. 1070, note, 

Homer, Odyss. xvii. 541. 

Xenophon, Anabasis, iii. z, 9. 

Aristot. Problem, xxxiii. 7. 

Anthologia Graeca, Brunck, voL iii. p. 95. 

Petron. Arb. Sat. 98. 

Plin. xxviii. t. 



Similar rites of sneezing have long been observed in Eastern 
^Asia.‘ When a Hindu sneezes, bystanders say, ' Live ! ' 
and the sneezer replies, ' With you ! ' It is an ill omen, to 
which among others the Thugs paid great regard on 
starting on an expedition, and which even compelled them 
to let the travellers with them escape.* 

The Jewish sneezing formula is, ' Tobim chayim ! ' i.e. 

‘ Good life ! The Moslem says, ' Praise to Allah ! ’ when 
he sneezes, and his friends compliment him with proper 
formulas, a custom which seems to be conveyed from race 
to race wherever Islam extends.* Lastly, the custom 
ranges through mediaeval into modern Europe. To cite old 
German examples, ' Die Heiden nicht endorften niesen, dk 
man doch sprichet Nu helfiu (iot }'* * * Wir sprechen, swer 
niuset, Got helfe dir.*‘ For a Norman French instance in 
England, the following lines (a.d. ixcx)) may servx*. which 
show our old formula ‘ waes hael ! ' (‘ may you be well ! ' — 
* wassail ! ') used also to avert being taken ill after a 
sneeze : — 

‘ E pur unc feyte esternuer 
Tantot quident mal troucr, 

Si u€ib€tl nc dicE aprer."* 

In the ' Rules of Civility ' (a.d. 1685, translated from the 
French) we read : — * If his lordship chances to sneeze, you 
are not to bawl out, God bless you, sir,” but, pulling off 
your hat, bow to him handsomely, and make that obsecra- 
tion to yourself.*^ It is noticed that Anabaptists and 

‘ No«l, ^ Die. d«* Originr« ; ’ ‘ Die. dtt Supcfiritiont,’ Jbc. ; 

Basttan, * Ocitl. Asirn,’ vol. ii. p. 129. 

* Ward, * Hindoos/ vol. i. p. 142 ; Dubois, ‘ Pcuplcs dc Tlndc/ voL i, 
p. 465 \ Sle^man, * Raniasc«ana/ p. 120. 

• Buvtorf, ' Lexicon Chaidaicum ; * Tcndlau, ' Sprichwortcr, Ac. Deutsch* 
Jiidischer Vorxeit.* Frankf. a. M,, iS6o, p. 142. 

* LanCf * Modem Egyptians/ vol. i. p. 282. Sec Grant, in * Tr. Eth. Soc.* 
vol. iii. p. 90. 

‘ Grimm, * D. M.’ pp. 1070, mo. 

• ’ Manuel det Pecch^/ in Wedgwood, ‘ Die. English Etymology/ 

* wassail.* 

’ Brand, vol. iii. p. 126. 

I.— H 


Quakers rejected these with other salutations, but they 
remained in the code of English good manners among high 
and low till half a century or so ago, and are so little for- 
gotten now, that most people still see the point of the story 
of the fiddler and his wife, where his sneeze and her hearty 
‘ God bless you ! ’ brought about the removal of the fiddle 
case. ' Got hilf ! ' may still be heard in Gennany, and 
* Felicita ! ' in Italy. 

It is not strange that the existence of these absurd 
customs should have been for ages a puzzle to curious 
enquirers. Especially the legend-mongers took the matter 
in hand, and their attempts to devise historical explanations 
arc on record in a group of philosophic myths, — Greek, 
Jewish, Christian. Prometheus prays for the preservation 
of his artificial man, when it gives the first sign of life by a 
sneeze ; Jacob prays that man’s soul may not, as heretofore, 
depart from his body when he sneezes ; Poj^x' Gregory prays 
to avert the pestilence, in those days when the air was so 
deadly that he who sneezed died of it ; and from these 
imaginary^ events legend declares that the use of the sneez- 
ing formulas was handed down. It is more to our purpose 
to notice the existence of a corresponding set of ideas and 
customs connected with gaping. Among the Zulus, repeated 
yawning and sneezing are classed together as signs of 
approaching spiritual posses>ion.^ The Hindu, when he 
gapes, must snap his thumb and finger, and re[x*at the name 
of some God, as Rama : to neglec t this is a sin as great as 
the murder of a Brahman.* The Persians ascribe yawning, 
sneezing, &c., to demoniacal possession. Among the modern 
Moslems generally, when a man yawns, he puts the back of 
his left hand to his mouth, saying, ‘ I seek refuge wdth 
Allah from Satan the accursed ! ' but the act of yawning is 
to be avoided, for the Devil is in the habit of leaping into 
a gaping mouth.* This may very likely be the meaning of 

* Callaway, p. 263. * Ward, l.c. 

* ‘ Pend-Nameh,* tr. dc Sacy, ch. Ixiii. ; Maury, * Magic,* dec., p. 302 ; 
Lane, l.c. 



the Jewish proverb, ‘Open not thy mouth to Satan ! The 
Other half of this idea shows itself clearly in Josephus* story 

of his having seen a certain Jew, named Eleazar, cure 
demoniacs in Vespasian's time, by drawing the demons out 
through their nostrils, by means of a ring containing a root 
of mystic virtue mentioned by Solomon.^ The account of the 
sect of the Messalians, who used to spit and blow their noses 
to expel the demons they might have drawn in with their 
breath,* the records of the mediaeval exorcists driving out 
devils through the patients* nostrils,* and the custom, still 
kept up in the Tyrol, of crossing oneself when one yawns, 
lest something evil should come into one's mouth,* involve 
similar ideas. In comparing the modem Kafir ideas with 
those of other districts of the world, we find a distinct notion 
of a sneeze being due to a spiritual presence. This, which 
seems indeed the key to the whole matter, has been well 
brought into view by Mr. Haliburton, as displayed in Keltic 
folk-lore, in a group of stories turning on the superstition 
that any one who sneezes is liable to be carried off by the 
fairies, unless their jxywer be counteracted by an invocation, 
as ‘ God bless you ! * The corresfxjnding idea as to yawn- 
ing is to be found in an Iceland folk-lore legend, where the 
troll, who has transforniexl herself into the shape of the 
beautiful queen, says. * When I yawn a little yawn, I am a 
neat and tiny maiden ; when I yawn a half-yawn, then I 
am as a half-troll ; when I yawn a whole yawn, then am 
I as a w^hole troll/* On the whole, though the sneezing 
superstition makes no approach to univ^ersality among man- 
kind, its w'ide distribution IS highly remarkable, and it would 
be an interesting problem to decide how^ far this wude distri- 
bution is due to independent growth in several regions, 

' G. Brcchcr, * Dae Traneccndcntaie im Talmud/ p. 168 ; Joseph. Ant. 
Jud. viii. 2, 5. 

• Mignc, ‘ Die. dee Hir<^ies/ e.v. 

• Baetian, ‘ Mcntch/ vol. ii. pp. 115, 32a. 

Wuttke, * Deuteche V'^oikeaberglauhe/ p. 137. 

• Haliburton, op. cit. 

• Powell and Magnussen, * Lcgendt of Iceland/ 2nd ecr. p. 448. 



how far to conveyance from race to race, and how far to 
ancestral inheritance. Here it has only to be maintained 
that it was not originally an arbitrary and meaningless 
custom, but the working out of a principle.^ The plain 
statement by the modem Zulus fits with the hints to be 
gained from the superstition and folk-lore of other races, to 
connect the notions and practices as to sneezing with the 
ancient and savage doctrine of pervading and invading 
spirits, considered as good or evil, and treated accordingly. 
The lingering survivals of the quaint old formulas in modem 
Europe seem an unconscious record of the time when the 
explanation of sneezing had not yet been given over to 
physiology, but was still in the ‘ theological stage.' 

There is current in Scotland the belief that the Piets, 
to whom local legend attribute's buildings of prehistoric 
antiquity, bathed their foundation-stones with human 
blood ; and legend even tells that St. ('olnniba found it 
necessary to bury St. Oran alive Ix neatli the foundation of 
his monastery , in order to propitiate tlie spirits of the soil 
who demolished by night what was built during tlie day* 
So late as 1843, in Germany, when a new bridge was built 
at Halle, a notion was abroad among the {x ople that a child 
was wanted to be built into the foundation. These ideas of 
church or wall or bridge wanting liuman bhxxl or an im- 
mured victim to make the foundation steadfast, are not only 
widespread in European folk-lore, but local ( h runic le or tra- 
dition asserts them as matter of historic al fact m district 
after district. Thus, wlien the broken dam of the* Nogat 
had to be repaired in the jx'asants, on the advice to 

throw in a living man , are said to have made a lx ggar drunk 
and buried him there. Thuringian lege nd declares that to 
make the castle of laebenstein fast and impregnable, a child 
was Ixjught for hard money of its mother and w^alled in. It 

* The cases in which a sneeze is interprctedl under speoal condicioni, at 
with reference to right and left, early morning, Ac. (sec Plutarch, l>e 
Genio Socratis, Ac.), arc not considered here, as they belong to ordinary 



was eating a cake while the masons were at work, the story 
goes, and it cried out, ‘Mother, I see thee still;’ then 
later, ‘ Mother, I see thee a little still ; ' and, as they put 
in the last stone, ‘ Mother, now I see thee no more/ The 
wall of Copenhagen, legend says, sank as fast as it was 
built ; so they took an innocent little girl, set her on a chair 
at a table of toys and eatables, and, as she played and ate, 
twelve master-masons closc*d a vault over her ; then, with 
clanging music, the wall was raised, and stood firm ever 
after. Thus Italian leg^ ui. ♦ells of the bridge of Arta, that 
fell in and fell in till they walled in the master-builder's 
wife, and she spoke her dying curse that the bridge should 
tremble like a flower-stalk henceforth. The Slavonic chiefs 
founding IXdinez, according to old heathen castom, sent out 
men to take the first boy they met and bury him in the 
foundation. Servian legend tells how' three brothers com- 
bined to build the fortress of Skadra (Scutari) ; but, year 
after year, the demon (vila) razed by night w^hat the three 
hundred masons built by day. The fiend mast bo appeased 
by a human sacrifice, the first of the three w ives who should 
come bringing food to the workmen. All thrive brothers 
swore to kt ep the dreadful secret from their w ives ; but the 
two eldest gave traitorous warning to theirs, and it was the 
youngest brother’s wife who came unsuspecting, and they 
built her in. But she entreated that an opening should be 
left for her to suckle her baby th»ongh, and for a twelve- 
month it was brought. To this day, Servian wives visit the 
tomb of the gcxKi mother, still marked by a stream of water 
which trickk‘s, milky with lime, down the fortress wall. 
I^tly, there is our ow n legend of Vortigem, who could not 
finish his tower till the foundation-stone was wetted with 
the blood of a child lK>m of a mother without a father. As 
is asual in the history of sacrifice, we hear of substitutes for 
such victims ; empty coffins walled up in Germany, a lamb 
walled in under the altar in Denmark to make tte church 
stand fast, and the churchyard in like manner handselled by 
burying a live horse first. In modem Greece an evident 


relic of the idea survives in the superstition that the first 

passer-by after a foundation-stone is laid will die within the 

year, wherefore the masons will compromise the debt by 
killing a lamb or a black cock on the stone. With much 
the same idea German legend tells of the bridge-building 
fiend cheated of his promised fee, a soul, by the device of 
making a cock run first across ; and thus German folk-lore 
says it is well, before entering a new house, to let a cat or 
dog run in.^ From all this it- seems that, with due allow- 
ance for the idea having passed into an often-ref)eated and 
varied mythic theme, yet written and unwritten tradition do 
preserv’e the memory of a bloodthirsty barbaric rite, which 
not only really existed in ancient times, but lingered long in 
European history. If now we look to less cultured countries, 
we shall find the rite carried on in our own day with a 
distinctly religious purpose, either to propitiate the earth- 
spirits with a victim, or to convert the soul of the victim 
himself into a p)rotecting demon. 

In Africa, in Galam, a boy and girl used to be buried 
alive before the great gate of the city to make it impreg- 
nable, a practice once executed on a large scale by a Bam- 
barra tyrant ; while in Great Bassam and Y arriba such 
sacrifices were usual at the foundation of a house or village.* 
In Polynesia, Ellis heard of the custom, instanced by the 
fact that the central pillar of one of the temples at Maeva 
was planted upon the body of a human victim.* In Borneo, 

^ W. Scott, ‘ Minstrelsy of Scottish Border Forbes Leslie, ‘ Early Races 
of Scotland,' voL i. pp. 194, 487 ; Grimm, ' Deutsche Mythologic,’ pp. 972, 
1095 ; Bastian, * Mensch,’ vol, ii, pp, 92, 407, vol. ili. pp. 105, 1 1 2 j Bowring, 
‘ Servian Popular Poetry,' p. 64. A review of the First Edition of the 
present work in 'Nature,' June 15, 1871, contains the following: — ‘ It is 
not, for example, many years since the present Lord Leigh was accused of 
having built an obnoxious person — one account, if wc remember right, 
said eight obnoxious persons — into the foundation of a bridge at Stonelcigh. 
Of course so preposterous a charge carried on its face its own sufficient 
refutation ; but the fact that it was brought at all is a singular instance of 
the almost incredible vitality of old traditions.' 

* Waitz, vol. ii. p. 197. 

* Ellis, ‘ Polyn. Res.' vol. i. p, 346 ; Tycrman and Bcnnct, vol. ii. p. 39. 


among the Milanaii Dayaks, at the erection of the largest 

’house a deep hole was dug to receive the first post, which 
was then suspended over it ; a slave girl w'as placed in the 
excavation ; at a signal the lashings were cut, and the 
enormous timber descended, crushing the girl to death, a 
sacrifice to the spirits. St. John saw a milder form of the 
rite j)erfonned, when the chief of the yuop Dayaks set up a 
flagstaff near his house, a chicken being thrown in to be 
crushed by the descending pole.‘ More cultured nations of 
Southern Asia have carried on into modern ages the rite of 
the foundation-sacrifice. A 17th century account of Japan 
mentions the belief there that a wall laid on the body of a 
willinghuman victim would be secure from accident ; accord- 
ingly, when a great wall was to be built, some wretf ht'd 
slave would offer himself as foundation, lying down in the 
trench to be crushed by the heavy stones lowered uprm him.* 
When the gates of the new city of Tavoy, inTenasserim.w<Te 
built about 1780, as Mason relates on the evidence of an 
eye-witness, a criminal was put in each po>t-hole to l>ec<»me 
a protecting demon. Tluis it apjxnirs that such stories as 
that of the human victims buried for spirit watchers under 
the gates of Mandalay, of tlu' (jueen who was drowned 
in a Burmese reservoir to make the dyke >afe, the 
hero whose divided bt>dy was buried under the fortress uf 
Thatung to make it impregnable, are the records, whi ther 
in historical or mythical form, of the actual customs of the 

^ St. John, ‘ Far East,’ vol. i. p. 46 . stc Basoan, \ol. ii p. 4'**. 1 am 

indebted to Mr. R. K. Douglas for a perfect ex.imple of one meaning of tlic 
foundation-sacrifice, from the Chinese hook, ‘ ^ uh hea ke ‘ ‘ jewelled 

Casket of Divination ’) ; ‘ Before beginning to build, the workmen should 
sacrifice to the gods of the neighbourhood, of the earth .and wood. Shoirld 
the carpenters be very apprehensive of the building falling, they, when 
fixing a post, should lake something living ami p\u u beneath, and lower 
the post on it, and to liberate [the evil intiucnce.s] they should strike the 
post with an axe and repeat--"' 

“It is well, it is well, 

May those who live within 
Be ever warm and well fed.” ’ 

* Caron, * Japan,’ in Pinkerton, vol. vii. p. bi";. 



Itod ' Within our own dominion, when Rajah Sala Byne 
was building the fort of Sialkot in the Punjab, the founda-- 
tion of the south-east, bastian gave way so repeatedly that 
he had recourse to a soothsayer, who assured him that it 
would never stand until the blood of an only son was shed 
there, wherefore the only son of a widow was sacrificed.* 
It is thus plain that hideous rites, of which Europe has 
scarcely kept up more than the dim memory, have held fast 
their ancient practice and meaning in Africa, Polynesia, and 
Asia, among races who represent in grade, if not in chro- 
eaiiier stages of civilization. 

When Sir Walter Scott, in the ' Pirate,’ tells of Bryce the 
pedlar refusing to help Mordaunt to save the shipwTecked 
sa^or from drowning, and even remonstrating with him on 
tiib rashness of such a deed, he states an old superstition of 
the Shetlanders. ‘ Are you mad ? ’ says the p)cdlar ; ' you 
that have lived sae lang in Zetland, to risk the saving of a 
drowning man ? Wot ye not, if you bring him to life again, 
he will be sure to do you some capital injury ? ’ Were this 
inhuman thought noticed in this one district alone, it might 
be fancied to have had its rise in some local idea now no longer 
to be explained. But when mentions of similar supe^rstitions 
are collected among the St. Kilda islanders and the b<jatmen 
of the Danube, among French and English sailors, and even 
out of Europe and among less civil izt.d races, we cease to 
think of local fancies, but look for some widely accepted 
belief of the lower culture to account for such a state of 
things. The Hindu does not save a man from drowming in 
the sacred Ganges, and the islanders of the Malay archipelago 
shan* the cruel notion.® Of all people the aide Kamchadals 
have the prohibition in the most remarkable form. They 
hold it a great fault . says Kracheninnikow, to save a drowm- 

' F. Mason. ‘ Burmah,’ p. loo ; Bastian, * Oestl. Asicn,' vol. i, pp. 193, 214; 
vol. ii. pp. 91, 270 ; \ol. iii. p. 16 ^ Roberts, ‘ Oriental Illustrations, ' p. 

• Bastian, ‘ Mensch,’ voi. iii. p, 107. A modem Amaut story is givea 
by Prof, Licbrecht in ‘ Philologus/ vol. xxiii. (1865), p. 682. 

® Bastian, ‘ Mensch,' vol. iii. p. zio j Ward, * Hindoos,' voL ii, p. 318. 


ing man ; he who delivers him will be drowned himself.' 
Steller’s account is more extraordinary, and probably applies 
only to cases where the victim is actually drowning : he says 
that if a man fell by chance into the water, it was a great 
sin for him to get out, for as he had been destined to drown 
he did wrong in not drowning, wherefore no one would let 
him into his dwelling, nor speak to him, nor give him food 
or a wife, but he was reckoned for dead; and even when a 
man fell into the water while others were standing by, far 
from helping him out, they would drowm him by force. Now 
these barbarians, it appears, avoided volcanoes because of the 
spirits who live there and cook their food ; for a like reason, 
they held it a sin to bathe in hot springs ; and they believed 
with fear in a fish-like spirit of the sea., whom they called 
Mitgk.* This spiritualistic belief among the Kamchadals 
is, no doubt, the key to their superstition as to rescuing 
drowning men. There is even to be found in modem 
European superstition, not only the practice, but with it a 
lingering survival of its ancient spiritualistic significance. 
In Bohemia, a rec(*nt account (1H64) sav's that the fishermen 
do not venture to snatch a drowning man from the waters. 
They fear that the * Waterman ‘ (i.e. water-demon) would 
take away their liu k in fishing, and drown themselves at 
the first opportunity * Ihis explanation of the prejudice 
against saving the water-spirit ‘s victim may be confirmed 
by a mass of evidence from various districts of the world. 
Thus, in discussing the dcxrtnne of sacrifice, it will appear 
that the usmd manner of making an offenng to a well, river, 
lake, or sea, simply to cast pro}x:i"ty, cattle, or men into 
the water, which |x*rs<maUy or by its indwelling spirit takes 
possession of them.* That the accidental drowning of a 
man is held to be such a seizure, savage and civilized folk- 
lore show by many examples. Among the Sioux Indians, 

• KracKfninntkow, ‘ Dcscr. du Kamchadca, Voy. cti vol. iii. p. 72. 

• SreUer, ‘ Kamt^chacka,’ pp. 265, 2-4, 

• J. V'. Grohmann, ‘ .Vberglauben und Grbrauche aua Bohracn,* p. iz. 

• Chap. XVI 1 1. 



it is Unk-tahe the water-monster that drowns his victims in 
flood or rapid;' in New Zealand huge supernatural reptile- 
monsters, called Taniwha, live in river-bends, and those who 
are drowned are said to be pulled under by them;* the 
Siamese fears the Pniik or water-spirit that seizes bathers 
and drags them under to his dwelling;® in Slavonic lands 
it is Topielec (the ducker) by whom men are always 
drowned;^ when some one is drowned in Germany, people 
recollect the religion of their ancestors, and say, ‘ The 
river-spirit claims his yearly sacrifice,' or, more simply, 
‘ The nix has taken him : — 

* Ich glaube, die Wellcn vcrschlingen, 

Am Ende Fischer und Kahn ; 

Und das hat mit ihrem Singen 
Die Lorelei gclhan.* 

From this point of view it is obvious that to save a sinking 
man is to snatch a victim from the very clutches of the 
water-spirit, a rash defiance of deity w^hich would hardly 
pass unavenged. In the civilized world the rude old theo- 
logical conception of drowning has long been suj^rseded 
by physical explanation ; and the prejudice against rescue 
from such a death may have now almost or altogether 
disappeared. But archaic ideas, drifted on into modem 
folk-lore and poetry, still bring to our view^ an apparent 
connexion between the primitive doctrine and the survi- 
ving custom. 

As the social development of the world gc.K\s on. the 
weightiest thoughts and actions may dwindle to more 
survival. Original meaning dies out gradually, each gene- 
ration leaves fewer and fewer to bear it in mind, till it falls 
out of popular memory, and in after-days ethnography has 
to attempt, more or less successfully, to restore it by piecing 

' Eastman, * Dacotah,* pp. Ii8, 125. 

* R. Taylor, * New Zealand,’ p. 48. 

* Bastian, * Oestl. Asien,* vol. iii. p* -^4. 

* Hanusch, * Wissenschaft dcs Slawischcn Mythus,’ p. 299. 

® Grimm, ‘ Deutsche Myth,’ p. 4O2. 



together lines of isolated or forgotten facts. Children's 
‘sports, popular sayings, absurd customs, may be practically 
unimportant, but are not philosophically insignificant, bear- 
ing as they do on some of the most instructive phases of 
early culture. Ugly and cruel superstitions may prove to be 
relics of primitive barbarism, for in keeping up such Man is 
like Shakespeare's fox, 

‘ Who, ne’er so tame, so cherish’d, and lock’d up, 

Will have a wild trick of his ancestors.* 



Occult Sciences — Magical powers attributed by higher to lower races — 
Magical processes based on Association of Ideas — Omens — Augury, Ac, 
— Oneiromancy — Haruspication, Scapulimancy, Chiromancy, Ac. — 
Cartomancy, Ac. — Rhabdomancy, Dactyliomancy, Coscinomancy, Ac. 
— Astrology — Intellectual conditions accounting lor the persistence of 
Magic — Survival passes into Revival— Witchcraft, originating in 
savage culture, continues in barbaric civilization \ its decline in early 
mediaeval Europe followed by revival ; its practices and counter- 
practices belong to earlier culture — Spirit uaHsm has its source in 
early stages of culture, in close connexion with witchcraft — Spirit- 
rapping and Spirit-writing — Rising in the air — Performances of tied 
mediums — Practical bearing of the study of Survival. 

In examining the survival of opinions in the midst of 
conditions of society becoming gradually estranged from 
them, and tending at last to suppress them altf>gether, much 
may be learnt from the history of one of the most pemicioiLs 
delusions that ever vexed mankind, the Ixdief in Magic. 
Looking at Occult Science from this ethnographic point of 
view, I shall instance some of its branches as illustrating 
the course of intellectual culture. Its place in history is 
briefly this. It belongs in its main principle to the lowcfst 
known stages of civilization, and the lower races, who have 
not partaken largely of the education of the worlds still 
maintain it in vigour. From this level it may be traced 
upward, much of the savage art holding its place sub- 
stantiaUy unchanged, and many new practices being in 
course of time developed, while both the older and newer 
developments have lasted on more or less among modem 
cultured nations. But during the ages in which progressive 



races have been learning to submit their opinions to closer 
. and closer experimental tests, occult science has been break- 
ing down into the condition of a survival, in which state we 
mostly find it among ourselves. 

The modem educated world, rejecting occult science as a 
contemptible superstition, has practically committed itself 
to the opinion that magic belongs to a lower level of 
civilization. It is very instructive to find the soundness of 
this judgment undesignedly confirmed by nations whose 
education has not advanced far enough to destroy their 
belief in magic itself. In any country an isolated or out- 
lying race, the lingering survivor of an older nationality, is 
liable to the reputation of sorcery. It Ls thus vith the 
Lavas of Burma, supposed to be the broken-down remains 
of an ancient cultured race, and dreaded as man-tigers;' 
and with the Budas of Abyssinia, w ho are at once the smiths 
and potters, sorcerers and were- wolves, of their district.* But 
the iLsual and suggestive state of things is that nations who 
Ixdieve with the sincerest terror in the reality ^f the magic 
art, at the same time cannot shat their eyes to the fact that 
it more essentially belongs to, and is more thoroughly at 
home among, races less civilized than thtmselves. The 
Malays of the Peninsula, who have adopted Mohammedan 
religion and civilization, have this idea of the lower tribes 
of tlie land, tribc^s more or k^ss of their < nvn race , hut who hav e 
remaine<i in their early sav age conditif>n. The Malays have 
enchanters of their own, but consider thiMii inferior to the 
sorcereis or jxiyang^ belonging to the rude Mintira ; to these 
they will resort for the cure of diseast s and the working of 
misfortune and death to their enemies. It is, in fact, the 
btrst protCHlion the Mintira have against their stronger 
Malay neighlHnirs. that thtse are careful not to offend them 
for fear of their powers of magiciil revenge. Tht' Jakuns, 
again, arc a rude and wild race, whom the Malays despise 
as infidels and little higher than animals, but whom at the 

' * Oesrl, A^irn,’ vol. i. p. 119. 

• * Lite of Nath. Ptarcc/ cd. by J. J. HalU, vol. i. p. xS6. 

same time they fear extremely. To the Malay the Jakun 
seems a supernatural being, skilled in divination, sorcery, 
and fascination, able to do evil or good according to his 
pleasure, whose blessing will be followed by the most 
fortimate success, and his curse by the most dreadful con- 
sequences ; he can turn towards the house of an enemy, at 
whatever distance, and beat two sticks together till that 
enemy will fall sick and die ; he is skilled in herbal physic ; 
he has the power of charming the fiercest wild beasts. 
Thus it is that the Malays, though they despise the Jakuns, 
refrain, in many circumstances, from ill-treating them.' In 
India, in long-past ages, the dominant Aryans described the 
indigenes of the land by the epithets of ' possessed of 
magical powers,’ ’ changing their shape at will.'* To this 
day, Hindus settled in Chota-Nagpur and Singbhum firmly 
believe that the Mundas have powers of witchcraft, whereby 
they can transform themselves into tigers and other beasts 
of prey to devour their enemies, and can witch away the 
lives of man and beast ; it is to the wildest and most 
savage of the tribe that such powers are generally ascribed.* 
In Southern India, again, we hear in past times oS 
Hinduized Dravidians, the Sudras of Canara, living in fear 
of the demoniacal powers of the slave-caste below them.* 
In our own day, among Dravidian tribes of the Nilagiri 
district, the Todas and Badagas are in mortal dread of the 
Kurumbas, despised and wretched forest outcasts, but 
gifted, it is believed, with powers of destroying men and 
animals and property by wtchcraft.* Northern Euroj>e 
brings the like contrast sharply into view. Tlie Finns and 
Lapps, whose low Tatar barbarism was characterized by 
sorcery such as flourishes still among their Siberian kins- 

' ‘ Journ. Ind, Archip.’ vol. i. p. 328 ; vol. ii. p. 273 ; tcc vol, iv. p. 425. 

* Muir, * Sanskrit Texts,’ part ii. p. 435. 

* Dalton, * Kols,^ in * Tr. Eth. Soc.* vol. vi. p. 6 j see p. 16. 

* Jas. Gardner, ’ Faiths of the World,* s.v. ‘ Exorcism.’ 

* Shortt, * Tribes of Neilgherries,’ in ‘ Tr. Eth. Soc.’ vol. vii. pp. 247, 
277; Sir W. Elliot in ’Trans. Congress of Prehistoric Archaeology,' 1868, 
P- 253- 



folk, were accordingly objects of superstitious fear to their 
Scandinavian neighbours and oppressors. In the middle 
ages the name of Finn was, as it still remains among sea- 
faring men, equivalent to that of sorcerer, while Lapland 
witches had a European celebrity as practitioners of the 
black art. Ages after the Finns had risen in the social scale, 
the Lapps retained much of their old half-savage habit of 
life, and with it naturally their witchcraft, so that even the 
magic-gifted Finns revered the occult powers of a people 
more barbarous than themselves. Riihs writes thus early 
in the last century : ‘ There are still sorcerers in Finland, 
but the skilfullest of them believe that the Lapps far 
excel them ; of a well-experienced magician they say, ‘'That 
is quite a Lapp,*’ and they journey to Lapland for such 
knowledge.'* All this is of a piece with the survival of 
such ideas among the ignorant elsewhere in the civilized 
world. Many a white man in the West Indies and Africa 
dreads the incantations of the Obi-man, and Europe 
ascribes powers of sorcery to despised outcast ‘ races 
maudites/ Gyf>sies and Cagots. To turn from nations to 
sects, the attitude of Protestants to Catholics in this matter 
is instructive. It was remarked in Scotland : ' There is 
one opinion which many of them entertain, .... that a 
fKjpish priest can cast out devils and cure madness, and 
that the Presbyterian clergy have no such power.' So 
Bourne says of the Church of England clergy\ that the 
vulgar think tliem no conjurers, and say none can lay 
spirits but j>)pish priests.* These* accounts are not recent, 
but in Cjennany the same state of things appears to exist 
still. Protestants get the aid of Catholic priests and monks 
to help them against witchcraft, to lay ghosts, consecrate 
herbs, and discover thieves;* thus with unconscious irony 
judging the relatioO of Rome toward nnxieni civilization. 

The principal key to the understanding of Occult Science 

* F. Riihs, ‘ Finland/ p. 296 ; Haitian, ' Mrnsch.* vol. iii. p. 202. 

* Brand, * Pop. Ant.’ vol. iii. pp. 81-3 ; sec p. 313. 

* Wuttke, ' Deutsche Volksabciglaubc/ p. 128 ; sec p. 23^, 

is to consider it as based on the Association of Vdeas, a 
faculty which lies at the very foundation of human reason, 
but in no small degree of human unreason also. Man, as 
yet in a low intellectual ’Condition, having come to associate 
in thought those things which he found by experience to be 
connected in fact, proceeded erroneously to invert this 
action, and to conclude that association in thought must 
involve similar connexion in reality. He thus attempted 
to discover, to foretell, and to cause events by means of 
processes which we can now see to have only an ideal 
significance. By a vast mass of evidence from savage, 
barbaric, and civilized life, magic arts which have resulted 
from thus mistaking an ideal for a real connexion, may be 
clearly traced from the lower culture which they are of, to 
the higher culture which they are in.^ Such are the 
practices whereby a distant person is to be affected by 
acting on something closely associated with him — his 
property, clothes he has worn, and above all cuttings of his 
hair and nails. Not only do savages high and low like the 
Australians and Polynesians, and barbarians like the nations 
of Guinea, live in deadly terror of this spiteful craft — not 
only have the Parsis their sacred ritual prescribed for bury- 
ing their cut hair and nails, lest demons and sorcerers 
should do mischief wHith them, but the fear of leaving such 
clippings and parings about lest their former owner should 
be harmed through them, has by no means died out of 
European folk-lore, and the German pi^^asant, during the 
days between his child's birth and baptism, objects to lend 
anything out of the house, lest witchcraft should bt* worked 
through it on the yet iinconsecrated baby.* As the negro 
fetish-man, when his patient does not come in [>erson, can 

^ For an examination of numerous magical arts, mostly coming under 
this category, tee ‘ Early History of Mankind/ chaps, vi. and x, 

• Stanbridge, * Abor. of Victoria,’ in * Tr, Eth. Soc.’ vol. i. p. 299 ; Ellis, 

* Polyn. Ret.* vol. i. p. 364 ; J. L. Wilton, ‘ W. Africa,’ p. 215 ; Spiegel, 

* A vest a/ voL i. p. 124; Wuttke, * Deutsche Volksabergiaube,* p. 19$; 
general references in ‘ Early History of Mankind,’ p. 129, 



divine by means of his dirty cloth or cap instead,^ so the 
modem clairvoyant professes to feel S5rmpathetically the 
sensations of a distant person, if communication be made 
through a lock of his hair or any object that has been in 
contact with him.* The simple idea of joining two objects 
with a cord, taking for granted that this communication will 
establish connexion or carry influence, has been worked out 
in various ways in the world. In Australia, the native doctor 
fastens one<m4 of a string to the ailing part of the patient's 
body, and by the other end pretends to draw out 

blood for his r6^.* ii^ Onssa. t he^ Jeypore witch lets 
down a bal^of^thra^ thfoughhN;;enemy's roof to reach his 
body, that by putt itfc the olHer'eTO. mTieFo\^ sISe 

may suck his bTood;f\ iyhen a reino^er is sacrificed at a 
sick Oslvak's tent y>oK t he patient holds in his hand a 
cord attached to thofyiciMm offered for ms benefit.* Greek 
history shows a simiai^i^a, when the citizens of Ephesus 
earned a rope seven furloi^ from their wMls to the temple 
of Artemis, thus to place th(&Ht§elves undeV her safeguard 
against the attack of tnoesua ; and in the yet more striking 
story of the Kyloniar^s, who\ied a cord to the statue of the 
goddess when they 4h*tted the asylum, and clung to it 
for protection iis they Ct^ossed Jun hallowed ground ; but by 
ill-fate the cord of safet^sbroke and they were\mercilessly 
put to death.* And in ouiNwn day, Buddhist priests in 
solemn ceremony put themsel^s in communicapon with a 
sacred relic, by each taking holosof a long thredd fastened 
near it and around the temple.’ \ 

Magical arts in which the connexion is that of mere 
analogy or symbolism are endlessly numerous throughout 

* Uurton, * W. and W. from West Africa/ p. 411. 

* W\ Gregory, * Letters on Animal Magnetism/ p. 128. 

* Kyrc, * Australia/ vol. ii. p. 361 \ Collins, ' New South Wales/ vol. i. 
PP- 561, 594; 

* Shortt, in * Tr. Eth. Soc/ vol. vi. p. 278. 

* Bastian, * Mensch,* vol. iii. p. 117. 

* Sec Orotc, vol. iii. pp. 113, 351. 

^ Hardy, ‘ Eastern MonackUm/ p. 241. 

i.— 1 



the course of civilization. Their common theory may be 
readily made out from a few typical cases, and thence 
applied confidently to the general mass. The Australian 
wHl observe the track of an insect near a grave, to ascertain 
the direction where the sorcerer is to be found, by whose 
craft the man died.' The Zulu may be seen chewing a bit 
of wood, in order, by this symbolic act, to soften the heart of 
the man he wants to buy oxen from, or of the woman he 
wants for a wife.* The Obi-man of West Africa makes his 
packet of grave-dust, blood, and bones, that this suggestive 
representation of death may bring his enemy to the grave.* 
The Khond sets up the iron arrow of the War-god in a 
basket of rice, and judges from its standing upright that war 
must be kept up also, or from its falling 'that the quarrel 
may be let fall too ; and when he tortures human victims 
sacrificed to the Earth-goddess, he rejoices to see them shed 
plentiful tears, which betoken copious showers to fall upon 
his land.* These are fair examples of the symbolic magic 
of the lower races, and they are fully rivalled in supersti- 
tions which still hold their ground in Europe. With quaint 
simplicity, the German cottager declares that if a dog howls 
looking downward, it portends a death ; but if upward, then 
a recovery from sickness. • Locks must be op)ened and bolts 
drawn in a dying man's house, that his soul may not be 
held fast.* The Hessian lad thinks that he may escape the 
conscription by carrying a baby-girl's cap in his pocket — a 
S5Tnbolic way of repudiating manhood.’ Modem Servians, 
dancing and singing, lead about a little girl dressed in 
leaves and flowers, and pour bowls of water over her to 
make the rain come.* Sailors becadmed will sometimes 

' Oldfield, in * Tt, Eth. Soc.* vol. iii. p. 246. 

* Grout, *Zulu-lAnd,* p. 134. 

* See •pcdmcn and description in the Christy Museum. 

* Macpherson, * India,’ pp. 130, 363. 

* Wuttke, ‘ Volksaberglauhe,* p. 31. 

* R. Hunt, ‘ Pop. Rom. of W. of England,' 2nd ser. p. 165 } Brand, ' Pop. 
Ant.* vol. ii. p. 231. 

’ Wuttke, p. 100. 

* Orimm, * D. M.’ p. 560. 


whistle for a wind ; but in other weather they hate 
whistling at sea, which raises a whistling gale. ^ Fish, 
says the Cornishman, should bo eaten from the tail 
towards the head, to bring the other fishes' heads towards 
the shore, for eating them the wrong way turns them from 
the coast.* He who has cut himself should rub the 
knife with fat, and as it dries, the wound will heal ; this is 
a lingering survival from days when recipes for sympathetic 
ointment were to be found in the Pharmacof>oeia.* Fanciful 
as these notions are, it should be home in mind that they 
come fairly under definite mental law, depending as they do 
on a principle of ideal association, of which we can quite 
understand the mental action, though we deny its practical 
results. The clever Lord Chesterfield, too clever to under- 
stand folly, may again be cited to prove this. He relates in 
one of his letters that the king had been ill, and that people 
generally expected the illness to be fatal, because the oldest 
lion in the Tower, about the king's age, had just died. ' So 
wild and capricious is the human mind,' he exclaims, by 
way of comment. But indeed the thought was neither wild 
nor capricious, it was simply such an argument from analogy 
as the educated world has at length painfully learnt to be 
worthless ; but which, it is not too much to declare, would 
to this day carry considerable weight to the minds of four- 
fifths of the human race, 

A glance at those magical arts which have been systema- 
tized into pseudo-sciences, show's the same underlying 
principle. The art of taking omens from seeing and meet- 
ing animals, which includes augury, is familiar to such 
savages as the Tupis of Brazil* and the Dayaks of Borneo,* 
and extends upward through classic civilization. The 
Maoris may give a sample of the character of its rules : they 

^ Brandy vol. iii, p. 240. 

• Hunt, ibU, p. 148. 

• Wuttke, p. 165 j Brand, vol. iii. p. 305. 

• Magalhanet de Gandavo, p. 125 ; D’Orbigny, vol. «. p. 168. 

• St, John, * Far Eatt^' vol, i. p. 202 j * Journ. Ind. Archip.* vol. ii. 
P- 357 ‘ 



hold it unlucky if an owl hoots during a consultation, but a 

council of war is encouraged by prospect of victory when a 
hawk flies overhead ; a flight of birds to the right of the 
war-sacrifice is propitious if the villages of the tribe are in 
that quarter, but if the omen is in the enemy’s direction 
the war will be given up.^ Compare these with the Tatar 
rules, and it is obvious that similar thoughts lie at the 
source of both. Here a certain little owl’s cry is a sound of 
terror, althougn there is a white owl which is lucky ; but of 
all birds the white falcon is most prophetic, and the Kalrnuk 
bows his thanks for the good omen when one flies by on the 
right, but seeing one on the left turns away hi^ face and 
expects calamity.® So to the negro of Old Calabar, the cry 
of the great kingfisher bodes good or evil, according as it is 
heard on the right or left.® Here we have the obvious sym- 
holism of the right and left hand, the foreboding of ill from 
the owl’s doleful note, and the suggestion of victory from 
the fierce swooping hawk, a thought which in old Eurojx? 
made the bird of prey the warriors omen of coiKiuest. 
Meaning of the same kind appear^ in the ' Angang/ the 
omens taken from meeting animals and jx^ople, esp<x'ially on 
first going out in the morning, as when the ancient Slaves 
held meeting a sick man or an old woman to bode ill-luck. 
Any one who takes the trouble to go into this subject in 
detail, and tostudy the classic, mediaeval, and f>ncntal codes 
of rules, will find that the principle of direct symbolism still 
accounts for a fair profKirtion of them, though the rest may 
have lost their early significance, or may have lx?cn originally 
due to some other reason, or may have been arbitrarily 
invented (as a considerable proportion of such devices must 
necessarily be) to fill up the gaps in the system. It is still 
plain to us why the omen of the crow should be different on 
the right or left hand, why a vulture should mean rapacity, 
a stork concord, a pelican piety, an ass labour, why the 

' Yatc, ' New Zealand,’ p. 90 ; Folack, vol. i. p. 248. 

* ICiemm, ’ Culrur-Gesch.’ vol. iii. p. 202. 

• Burton, ‘ Wit and Wisdom from West Africa,’ p. 381. 



fierce con(]iiering wolf should be a good omen, and the timid 
hare a bad one, why bees, types of an obedient nation, 

should be lucky to a king, while flies, returning however 
often they are driven off, should be *signs of importunity and 
impudence.* And as to the general principle that animals 
are ominous to those who meet them, the German j)easant 
who says a flock of sheep is lucky but a herd of swine un- 
lucky to meet, and the Cornish miner who turns away in 
horror when he meets an old woman or a rabbit on his way 
to the pit’s mouth, are to this day keeping U}) relics of early 
savagery as genuine as any flint implement dug out of a 

The doctrine of dreams, attribut(^d as tliey arc by the 
lower and middle races to spiritual intercourse, belongs in 
so far rather to religion than t<> magic. But oneiromancy. 
the art of taking omens from dreams by analogical interpre- 
tation, has its y>lace hero. Of the leading principle of su('h 
mystical explanation, no better tyjx^s C(nild be chosen than 
the detiiils and interpretations of Joseph's dreams {(icnesis 
xxxvii., xl., xh.), of the sheaves and the sun and moon and 
eleven stars, of the vine and the basket of meats, of the lean 
and fat kine, and the thin and full corn-ears. Oneiromancy, 
thus symbolically interpreting the tilings si^en m dreams, k 
not unknown to the lower races. A whole Australian tribe 
has been known to decamp because one of them dreamt < 
a certain kind of owl, which dream the wise men declared 
to forebode an attack from a certain other tril>e.* Tht' 
Kamchadals, whose minds ran much on dreams, had sjx^cial 
interpretations of some ; tliiis t<^ dream of lice or dogs \x - 
tokened a visit of Russian travellers, &c.* The Zulus, ex- 
IXTience having taught them the fallacy of cxjx‘cting direct 
fulfilment of dreams, have in some cases tried to mend 

* See Cornelius Agripp.^, ‘ Dc Occulta Philosophia,* i. 53 ; ‘ Dc Vanirate 
Scient.* 37; Grimm, ' D. M.’ p. 1073; Hanusch, 'Slaw. Myth* p. 2K5 ; 
Brand, vol. iii. pp. 184-227. 

* Oidfield in ‘ Tr. Eth. Soc,* vol. iii. p. 241. 

* StcHcr, * Kamtschatka,* p. 279. 



matters by rushing to the other extreme. If they dream of 
a sick man that he is dead, and they see the earth poured 
into the grave, and hear the funeral lamentation, and see all 
his things destroyed, then they say, ' Because we have 
dreamt of his death he will not die.* But if they dream 
of a wedding-dance, it is a sign of a funeral. So the 
Maoris hold that a kinsman dreamt of as dying will recover, 
but to see him well is a sign of death.' Both races thus 
work out, by the same crooked logic that guided our own 
ancestors, the axiom that ‘ dreams go by contraries.* It 
could not be expected, in looking over the long lists of pre- 
cepts of classic, oriental, and modem popular dream-inter- 
pretation, to detect the original sense of all their readings. 
Many must turn on allusions intelligible at the time, but 
now obscure. The Moslem dream-interpretation of eggs as 
concerning w^omen, because of a saying of Mohammed about 
women being like an egg hidden in a nest, is an example 
which will serve as w’ell as a score to show how dream-rules 
may turn on far-fetched ideas, not to be recognized unless 
the key happens to have been preserved. Many rules must 
have been taken at random to fill up lists of omens, and of 
contingencies to match them. Why should a dream of 
roasting meat show the dreamer to be a back-biter, or 
laughter in sleep presage difficult circumstances, or a dream 
of playing on the clavicord the death of relatives ? But the 
other side of the matter, the still apparent nonsensical 
rationality of so many dream omens, is much more remark- 
able. It can only be considered that the same symbolism 
that lay at the root of the whole delusion, favoured the keep- 
ing up and new making of such rules as carried obvious 
meaning. Take the Moslem ideas that it is a good omen to 
dream of something white or green, or of water, but bad to 
dream of black or red, or of fire; that a palm-tree indicates an 
Arab, and a peacock a king ; that he who dreams of devour* 
ing the stars will live free at some great man's table. Take 
the classic rules as in the ‘ Oneirocritica ' of Artemidorus, 
' Callaway, * Rcl. of Amaiulu,* pp. 236, 241 j R. Taylor, * N. Z* p. 334- 



and pass on through the mediaeval treatises down to such a 
dream-dictionary as servant-maids still buy in penny chap- 
books at the fair, and it will be seen that the agicient rules 
still hold their places to a remarkable' extent, while half the 
mass of precepts still show their original mystic significance, 
mostly direct, but occasionally according to the rule of con- 
traries. An ofiensive odour signifies annoyance ; to wash 
the hands denotes release from anxieties ;* to embrace one's 
best beloved is very fortunate ; to have one's feet cut off 
prevents a journey ; to weep in sleep is a sign of joy ; he 
who dreams he hath lost a tooth shall lose a friend ; and he 
that dreams that a rib is taken out of his side shall ere long 
see the death of his wife ; to follow bees, betokens gain ; to 
be married signifies that some of your kinsfolk are dead ; if 
one sees many fowls together, that shall be jealousy and 
chiding ; if a snake pursue him; let him be on his guard 
against evil women ; to dream of death, denotes happiness 
and long life ; to dream of swimming and wading in the 
water is good, so that the head be kept above water ; to 
dream of crossing a bridge, denotes you will leave a good 
situation to seek a better ; to dream you see a dragon is a 
sign that you shall see some great lord your master, or a 

Haruspication belongs, among the lower races, especially 
to the Malays and Polynesians,* and to various Asiatic 
tribes.* It is mentioned as practised in Peru under the 
Incas.* Captain Burton's account from Central Africa 
perhaps fairly displays its symbolic principle. He de- 
scribes the mganga or sorcerer taking an ordeal by killing 

* Artemi dorut, ‘ Oneirocritic* } * Codcayne, * Leechdoms, Ac., of Early 
England/ voL iiL \ SeaBeld, " Literature, Ac., of Dreami ; ' Brand, vol. iii. ; 
Halliwell, * Pop. Rhymes, Ac.,* p. aiy, Ac., Ac, 

* St. John, * Far Eaat,* vol. i. pp. 74, 115 ; EUia, * Polyn. Rot.* vol. iv. 
p. 150 ; PoUck, * NewZealandert,* voL i. p. 255. 

* Georgiy * Reise tm Rust.* Reich, vol. i. p. 281 ; Hooker, * Himalayan 
Journala,* vol. i. p. 135 ; * At. Res.* vol. iii. p. 27 ; Latham, * Deter. Eth/ 
vol. i. p. Si. 

* Cieia de Leon, p. 289 ; Rivero and Ttchudi, * Pern,* p. 183. 



and splitting a fowl and inspecting its inside : if black- 
ness or blemish appears about the wings, it denotes the 
treachery of children and kinsmen ; the backbone convicts 
the mother and grandihother ; the tail shows that the crim- 
inal is the wife, &c,^ In ancient Rome, where the art held so 
great a place in public affairs, the same sort of interpretation 
was usual, as witness the omen of Augustus, where the livers 
of the victims were found folded, and the diviners prophesied 
him accordingly a doubled empire.* Since then, haruspica- 
tion has died out more completely than almost any magical 
rite, yet even now a characteristic relic of it may be noticed 
in Brandenburg ; when a pig is killed and the spleen is 
found turned over, there will be another overthrow, namely 
a death in the family that year.* With haruspication may 
be classed the art of divining by bones, as where North 
American Indians would put in the fire a Certain flat bone 
of a porcupine, and judge from its colour if the ix>rcupine 
hunt would be successful.* The principal art of this kind is 
divination by a shoulder-blade, technically called scapuli- 
mancy or omoplatoscopy. This art, related to the old 
Chinese divination by the cracks of a tortoise-shell on the 
fire, is especially found in vogue in Tartary. Its simple 
symbolism is well shown in the elaborate account with 
diagrams given by Pallas. The shoulder-blade is put 
on the fire till it cracks in various directions, and then a 
long split lengthwise is reckoned as the ‘ way of life,' 
while cross-cracks on the right and left stand for different 
kinds and degrees of good and evil fortune ; or if the omen 
is only taken as to some special event, then lengthwise splits 
mean going on well, but crosswise ones stand for hindrance, 
white marks portend much snow, black ones a mild winter, 
&c.* To find this quaint art lasting on into modem times 

^ Burton, ‘ Central Afr ’ vol. ii. p. 32 ; Waitz, vol ii. pp. 417, 518. 

* Plin. xi. 73. Sec Cic. dc Divinatione, ii. 12. 

* Wuttke, ' Volksabcrglaubc,* p. 32. 

* Le Jcunc, ‘ Nouvcllc France,’ vo!. i. p. 90, 

* J. H. Plath, ‘ Rcl. d. alten Chinesen,* part i. p. 89 ; KLlcmm, * Cultur. 
Gesch.’ vol. iii. pp. 109, 199; vol. iv. p. »zi ; Rubruquu, in Pinkerton, 



in Europe, we can hardly go to a better place than our own 
country ; a proper English term for it is ‘ reading the speal- 
bone' {speal = espaule). In Ireland, Camden, describes the 
looking through the blade-bone of 'a sheep, to find a dark 
spot which foretells a death, and Drayton thus commemo- 
rates the art in his Polyolbion : — 

‘ By th' shoulder of a ram from off the right side par’d, 

Which usually they boilc, the spade-bone being bar’d, 

Which when the wizard takes, and gazing therupon 
Things long to come foreshowes, as things done long agone.' * 

Chiromancy, or palmistry, seems much like this, though it 
is also mixed up with astrology. It flourished in ancient 
Greece and Italy as it still does in India, where to say, ' It 
is written on the palms of my hands/ is a usual way of ex- 
pressing a sense of inevitable fate. Chiromancy traces in 
the markings of the palm a line of fortune and a line of life, 
finds proof of melancholy in the intersections on the saturn- 
ine mount, presages sorrow and death from black spots in 
the finger-nails, and at last, having e.xhausted the powers of 
this childish symbolism, it completes its system by details 
of which the absurdity is no longer relieved by even an 
ideal sense. The art has its modern votaries not merely 
among Gypsy fortune-tellers, but in what is called ‘ good 

It may again and again thus be noticed in magic arts, 
that the a.ssociation of ideas is obvious up to a certain point. 
Thus when the New Zealand sorcerer took omens by the 
way his divining sticks (guided by spirits) fell, he quite 
naturally said it was a good omen if the stick representing 
his own tribe fell on top of that representing the enemy, 
and vice versa. Zulu diviners still work a similar process 
with their magical pieces of stick, which rise to say yes and 

vol. vii. p. 65 ; Grimm, ‘ D. M.’ p. 1067 ; R. F. Burton, * Sindh,* p. 189 ; 
M. A. Walker, 'Macedonia,' p. 169. 

* Brand, vol, in, p. 339 ; Forbei Leslie, vol. ii. p. 491. 

* Maury, ' Magie, Ac.’, p. 74 ; Brand, vol. iii. p. 348, Ac. See figure in 
Cornelius Agrippa, ‘ De Occult. Phiiosoph,* ii. 27. 



fall to say no, jump upon the bead or stomach or other 
affected part of the patient’s body to show where his com- 
plaint is, and lie pointing towards the house of the doctor 
who can cure him. So likewise, where a similar device was 
practised ages ago in the Old World, the responses were 
taken from staves which (by the operatimi of ^mons) fell 
backward or forward, to the right or left.* But when 
processes of this kind are developed to complexity, the 
system has, of course, to be completed by more arbitrary 
arrangements. This is well shown in one of the divinatory 
arts mentioned in the last chapter for their connexion with 
games of chance. In cartomancy, the art of fortune-teUing 
with packs of cards, there is a sort of nonsensical sense in 
such rules as that two queens mean friendship and four 
mean chattering, or that the knave of hearts prophesies a 
brave young man who will come into the family to be use- 
ful, unless his purpose be reversed by his card being upside 
down. But of course the pack can only furnish a limited 
number of such comparatively rational interpretations, and 
the rest must be left to such arbitrary fancy as that the 
seven of diamonds means a prize in the lottery, and the 
ten of the same suit an imexpected journey.' 

A remarkable group of divining instruments illustrates 
another principle. In South-East Asia, the Sgau Karens, 
at funeral feasts, hang a bangle or metal ring by a thread 
over a brass basin, which the relatives of the dead approach 
in succession and strike on the edge with a bit of bamboo ; 
when the one who was most beloved touches the basin, the 
dead man's spirit respoiids by twisting and stretching the 
string till it breaks and the ring falls into the cup, or at 
least till it rings against it.* Nearer Central Asia, in the 

* R. Taylor, * New Zealand,' p. zo$ ; Sbortland, p. 139; Callaway, * Re- 
ligion of Amftiulu,* p. jjo, Ac. ; Hieophyiact. in Brand, vol. ttL p. 33a, 
Compare mestiont of timilar devices *, Hcrodot. iv. 67 (Scythia) \ Burton. 
‘ Central Africa,’ voL ii. p. 350. 

* Migne's * Die. dcs Sdences Occultes.’ 

* Mason, * Karens,’ in * Joum. As. Soc. Bengal,’ 1865, part ii. p. aoo ( 
Bastian, * Oettl. Asien,’ vol. i. p. 146. 



north-east comer of India, among the Bodo and Dhimal, the 
professional exorcist has to find out what deity has entered 
into a patient's body to punish him for some impiety by an 
attack of illness ; this he discovers by setting thirteen leaves 
round him on the ground to represent the gods, and then 
holding a pendulum attached to his thumb by a string, till 
the god in question is persuaded by invocation to declare 
himself, making the pendulum swing toward his representa- 
tive leaf.^ These mystic arts (not to go into the question 
how these tribes came to use them) are rude forms of the 
classical dactyliomancy, of which so curious an account is 
given in the trial of the conspirators Patricius and Hilarius, 
who worked it to find out who was to supplant the emperor 
Valens. A round table was marked at the edge with the 
letters of the alphabet, and with prayers and mystic cere- 
monies a ring was held suspended over it by a thread, and 
by swinging or stopping towards certain letters gave the re- 
sponsive words of the oracle.* Dactyliomancy has dwindled 
in Europe to the art of finding out what o'clock it is by 
holding a ring hanging inside a tumbler by a thread, till, 
without conscious aid by the operator, it begins to swing 
and strikes the hour. Father Schott, in his ' Physica 
Curiosa ' (1662), refrains with commendable caution from 
ascribing this phenomenon universally to demoniac influence . 
It survives among ourselves in child's play, and though we 
are ' no conjurers,' we may learn something from the little 
instrument, which remarkably displays the effects of in- 
sensible movement. The operator readly gives slight 
impulses till they accumulate to a considerable vibration, as 
in ringing a church-bell by very gentle pulls exactly timed. 
That he does, though unconsciously, cause and direct the 
swings, may be shown by an attempt to work the instrument 
with the operator's eyes shut, which will be found to fail, the 
directing power being lost. The action of the famous divin- 
ing-rod with its curiously versatile sensibility to water, ore, 

* Hodgion, * Abor. of India/ p. 170. See Maephefton, p. 106 (Kbonda). 

• Ammian. MarceUin. xxijc. 1. 



treasure, and thieves, seems to belong partly to trickery by 
professional Dousterswivels, and partly to more or less con-^ 
scions direction by honester operators. It is still knowm 
in England, and in Germany they are apt to hide it in 
a baby's clothes, and so get it baptized for greater effi- 
ciency.^ To conclude this group of divinatory instruments, 
chance or the operator’s direction may determine the action 
of one of the most familiar of classic and mediaeval ordeals, 
the so-called coscinoinancy, or, as it is described in 
Hudibras, ' th’ oracle of sieve and shears, that turns as 
certain as the spheres.' The sieve was held hanging 
by a thread, or by the points of a pair of shears stuck into 
its rim, and it would turn, or swing, or fall, at the mention 
of a thief’s nhme, and give similar signs for other purposes. 
Of this ancient rite, the Christian ordeal of the Bible and 
key, still in frequent use, is a variation : the proper way 
to detect a thief by this is to read the 50th Psalm to the 
apparatus, and when it hears the verse, ‘ When thou sawest 
a thief, then thou consentedst with him,' it will turn to the 

Count de Maistre, with his usual faculty of taking an 
argument up at the wrong end, tells us that judicial 
astrology no doubt hangs to truths of the first order, which 
have been taken from us as useless or dangerous, or which 
we cannot recognize under their new forms. =* A soIxt 
examination of the subject may rather justify the contrary 
opinion, that it is on an error of the first order that astro- 
logy depends, the error of mistaking ideal analogy for real 
connexion. Astrology, in the immensity of its delusive 
influence on mankind, and by the comparatively modem 
period to which it remained an honoured branch of philo- 

^ Chcvrcul, ‘ Dc la Baguette Divinacoire, du Pcndulc dit Exploratcur, 
ct dcs Tables Tournantca/ Paris, 1854 ; Brand, vol, iii. p. 332 ; Grimm,. 
*D. M.’ p. 926; H. B. Woodward, in ‘Geological Mag.,' Nov. 1872 *, Wuttke, 

p. 94. 

• Cornelius Agrippa, ‘ De Speciebus Magi*,’ xxi. ; Brand, vol. iii. p. 351 ; 
Grimm, ‘ D. M.' p. 1062. 

* De Maistre, * Soirees dc St. Petersbourg,’ vol. ii. p. 212. 



sophy, may claim the highest rank among the occult 
"sciences. It scarcely belongs to very low levels of civiliza- 
tion, although one of its fundamental -conceptions, namely, 
that of the souls or animating intelligences of the celestial 
bodies, is rooted in the depths of savage life. Yet the fol- 
lowing Maori specimen of astrological reasoning is as real 
an argument as could be found in Paracelsus or Agrippa, nor 
is there reason to doubt its being home-made. W^hen the 
siege of a New Zealand * pa ' is going on, if Venus is near the 
moon, the natives naturally imagine the two as enemy and 
fortress ; if the planet is above, tht* foe will have the upper 
hand ; but if below, then the men of the soil will be able to 
defend themselves.^ Though the early history of astrology 
is obscure, its great development and elaborate systematiza- 
tion were undoubtedly the work of civilized nations of the 
ancient and mediaeval world. As might lx‘ well supposed, 
a great part of its precepts have lost their intelligible sense, 
or never had any, but the origin of many others is still 
evident. To a con>iderable extent they rest on direct 
symbolism. Such are the rules which connect the sun 
with gold, with the heliotrope and paeony, with the cock 
which heralds day, with magnanimous animals, such as the 
lion and bull ; and the moon with silver, and the changing 
chamaelcon, and the palm-tree, which was considered to 
send out a monthly shoot. Direct .symbolism is plain in 
that main principle of the calculation of nativities, the 
notion of the ‘ ascendant ' in the horo>coj>e, which reckons 
the part of the heavens rising in the east at the moment of 
a child’s birth as lx?ing connected with the child itself, and 
prophetic of its future life.* It is an old story, that when 
two brothers w^ere once taken ill together, Hippokrates the 
physician concluded from the coincidence that they were 
twins, but Poseidonios the astrologer considered rather that 
they were born under the same constellation : we may add, 

' Shortland, ‘ Tradf., Ac. of New Zealand/ p. 13S. 

* Sec Cicero, ' Dc Div.’ i. ; Lucian. * De Astrolog.' ; Corneliua Agrippa^ 
‘ Dc Occulta Philotophia ; * Sibly, * Occult Science* ; ’ Brand, vol. iii. 



that either argument would be thought reasonable by a 
savage. One of the most instructive astrological doctrines" 
which has kept its place in modem popular philosophy, is 
that of the sympathy of growing and declining nature with 
the waxing and waning moon. Among classical precepts 
are these : to set eggs under the hen at new moon, but to 
root up trees when the moon is on the wane, and after 
midday. The Lithuanian precept to wean boys on a wax- 
ing, but girls on a waning moon, no doubt to make the 
boys sturdy and the girls slim and delicate, is a fair match 
for the Orkney islanders* objection to marrying except with 
a growing moon, while some even wish for a flowing tide. 
The following lines, from Tusser's * Five Hundred Points 
of Husbandry,* show neatly in a single case the two con- 
trary lunar influences : — 

* Sowe peason and beans in the wane of the moone 
Who soweth them sooner, he soweth too soone : 

That they, with the planet, may rest and rise, 

And flourish with bearing, most plentiful wise/ ^ 

rhe notion that the weather changes with the moon’s 
quarterings is still held with great vigour in England. 
Yet the meteorologists, with all their eagerness to catch at 
any rule which at all answers to facts, quite repudiate this 
one, which indeed appears to be simply a maxim belonging 
to popular astrology. Just as the growth and dwindling of 
plants became associated with the moon’s wax and wane, 
so changes of weather became associated with changes of 
the moon, while, by astrologer’s logic, it did not matter 
whether the moon’s change were red, at new and full, or 
imaginary, at the intermediate quarters. That educated 
people to whom exact weather records are accessible should 
still find satisfaction in the fanciful lunar rule, is an in- 
teresting case of intellectual survival. 

In such cases as these, the astrologer has at any rate a 
real analogy, deceptive though it be, to base his rule upon. 

^ Plin. xvi. 75 ; xviii. 75 ; Grimm, * D. M.' p. 676 ; Brand, vol. ii. p. 169 ; 
vol. iii. p. 144. 



But most of his pseudo-science seems to rest on even 
weaker and more arbitrary analogies, not of things, but of 
names. Names of stars and constellations, of signs de- 
noting regions of the sky auad periods of days and years, 
no matter how arbitrarily given, are materials which the 
astrologer can work upon, and bring into ideal connexion 
with mundane events. That astronomers should have 
divided the sun*s course into imaginary signs of the zodiac, 
was enough to originate astrological rules that these 
celestial signs have an actual effect on real earthly rams, 
bulls, crabs, lions, virgins. A child bom under the sign 
of the Lion will be courageous ; but one bom under the 
Crab will not go forward well in life ; one bom under the 
Waterman is likely to be drowned, and so forth. Towards 
1524, Europe was awaiting in an agony of prayerful terror 
a second deluge, prophesied for February in that year. 
As the fatal month drew nigh, dwellers by the waterside 
moved in crowds to the hills, some provided boats to save 
them, and the President Aurial, at Toulouse, built himself 
a Noah's Ark. It was the great astrologer Stoefler (the 
originator, it is s^d, of the weather-prophecies in our 
almanacks) who foretold this cataclysm, and his argument 
has the advantage of being still perfectly intelligible — at 
the date in question, three planets would be together in the 
aqueous sign of Pisces. Again, simply because astro- 
nomers chose to distribute among the planets the names of 
certain deities, the planets thereby acquired the characters 
of their divine namesakes. Thus it was that the planet 
Mercury became connected with travel, trade, and theft, 
Venus with love and mirth, Mars with war, Jupiter with 
power and ‘ joviality.' Throughout the East, astrology 
even now remains a science in full esteem. The condition 
of mediaeval Europe may still be perfectly realized by 
the traveller m Persia, where the Shah waits for days 
outside the walls of his capital till the constellations 
allow him to enter, and where on the days appointed by the 
stars for letting blood, it literally flows in streams from the 



barbers' shops into the street. Professor Wuttke declares 
that there are many districts in Germany where the child’s 
horoscope is still regularly kept with the baptismal certifi- 
cate in the family chest. We scarcely reach this pitch of 
conservatism in England, but I happen to myself live within 
a mile of an astrologer, and I lately saw a grave paper 
on nativities, offered in all good faith to the British 
Association. The piles of ‘ Zadkiel's Almanack ' in the 
bookseller’s windows in country towns about Christmas 
are a s5miptom how much yet remains to be done in popular 
education. As a specimen at once of the survival and of 
the meaning of astrologic reasoning, I cannot do better 
than quote a passage from a book published in London in 
i86i, and entitled ‘ The Hand-Book of Astrology, by 
Zadkiel Tao-Sze.' At page 72 of his first volume, the 
astrologer relates as follows : ‘ The Map of the heavens 
given at page 45 was drawn on the occasion of a young 
lady having been arrested on a charge of the murder of her 
infant brother. Having read in a newspaper, at twenty- 
four minutes past noon on the 23rd July, i860, that Miss 
C. K. had been arrested on a charge of the murder of her 
young brother, the author felt desiroas to ascertain whether 
she were guilty or not, and drew the map accordingly. 
Finding the moon in the twelfth house, she clearly signifies 
the prisoner. The moon is in a moveable sign, and moves 
in the twenty-four hours, 14° 17'. She is, therefore, swift 
in motion. These things indicated that the prisoner would 
be very speedily released. Then we find a moveable sign 
in the cusp of the twelfth, and its ruler, 9 , in a moveable 
sign, a further indication of speedy release. Hence it was 
judged and declared to many friends that the prisoner 
would be immediately released, which was the fact. We 
looked to see whether the prisoner were guilty of the deed 
or not, and finding the Moon in Libra, a humane sign, and 
having just past the * aspect of the Sun and %, both 
being on the M. C. we felt assured that she was a humane, 
feeling, and honourable girl, and that it was quite im- 



possible she could be guilty of any such atrocity. We 
declared her to be perfectly innocent, and as the Moon was 
so well aspected from the tenth house, we declared that her 
honour would be very soon perfectly established.' Had 
the astrologer waited a few months longer, to have read 
the confession of the miserable Constance Kent, he would 
perhaps have put a different sense on his moveable signs, 
just balances, and sunny and jovial aspects. Nor would 
this be a difficult task, for these fancies lend themselves to 
endless variety of new interpretation. And on such fancies 
and such interpretations, the great science of the stars has 
from first to last been based. 

Looking at the details here selected as fair samples of 
symbolic magic, we may well ask the question, is there in 
the whole monstrous farrago no truth or value whatever ? 
It appears that there is practically none, and that the world 
has been enthralled for ages by a blind belief in processes 
wholly irrelevant to their supposed results, and which 
might as well have been taken just the opposite way. 
Pliny justly saw in magic a study worthy of his especial 
attention, ' for the very reason that, being the most fraudu- 
lent of arts, it had prevailed throughout the world and 
through so many ages ' (eo ipso quod fraudulentissima 
artium plurimum in toto terrarum orbe plurimisque seculis 
valuit). If it be asked how such a system could have held 
its ground, not merely in independence but in defiance of 
its own facts, a fair answer does not seem hard to give. In 
the first place, it must be borne in mind that occult science 
has not existed entirely in its own strength. Futile as its 
arts may be, they are associated in practice with other 
proceedings by no means futile. What are passed off as 
sacred omens, are often really the cunning man's shrewd 
guesses at the past and future. Divination serves to the 
sorcerer as a mask for real inquest, as when the ordeal 
gives him invaluable opportunity of examining the guilty, 
whose trembling hands and equivocating speech betray at 
once their secret and their utter belief in his power of 



discerning it. Prophecy tends to fulfil itself, as where the 
magician, by putting into a victim's mind the belief that 
fatal arts have been practised against him, can slay him 
with this idea as with a material weapon. Often priest as 
well as magician, he has the whole power of religion at his 
back ; often a man in power, always an unscrupulous 
intriguer, he can^work witchcraft and statecraft together, 
and make his left hand help his right. Often a doctor, he 
can aid his omens of life or death with remedy or poison, 
while what we still call * conjurers' tricks ' of sleight of 
hand have done much to keep up his supernatural prestige. 
From the earliest known stages of civilization, professional 
magicians have existed, who live by their craft, and keep it 
alive. It has been said, that if somebody had endowed 
lecturers to teach that two sides of a triangle are together 
equal to the third, the doctrine would have a respectable 
following among ourselves. At any rate, magic, with an 
influential profession interested in keeping it in credit and 
power, did not depend for its existence on mere evidence. 

And in the second place, as to this evidence. Magic has 
not its origin in fraud, and seems seldom practised as an 
utter imposture. The sorcerer generally learns his time- 
honoured profession in good faith, and retains his belief in 
it more or less from first to last ; at once dupe and cheat, 
he combines the energy of a believer with the cunning of a 
hypocrite. Had occult science been simply framed for 
purposes of deception, mere nonsense would have answered 
the purpose, whereas, what we find is an elaborate and 
systematic pseudo-science. It is, in fact, a sincere but 
fallacious system of philosophy, evolved by the human 
intellect by processes still in great measure intelligible to 
our own minds, and it had thus an original standing-ground 
in the world. And though the evidence of fact was dead 
against it, it was but lately and gradually that this evidence 
was brought fatally to bear. A general survey of the 
practical working of the system may be made somewhat 
thus. A large proportion of successful cases belong to 



natural means disguised as magic. Also, a certain propor- 
tion of cases must succeed by mere chance. By far the 
larger proportion, however, are what we should call failures; 
but it is a part of the. magician's profession to keep these 
from counting, and this he does with extraordinary resource 
of rhetorical shift and brazen impudence. He deals in 
ambiguous phrases, which give him three or four chances 
for one. He knows perfectly how to impose difficult 
conditions, and to lay the blame of failure on their neglect. 
If you wish to make gold, the alchemist in Central Asia 
has a recipe at your service, only, to use it, you must 
abstain three days from thinking of apes ; just as our 
English folk-lore says, that if one of your eyelashes comes 
out, and you put it on your thumb, you will get anything 
you wish for, if you can only avoid thinking of foxes’ tails 
at the fatal moment. Again, if the wrong thing happens, 
the wizard has at least a reason why. Has a daughter 
been bom when he promised a son, then it is some hostile 
practitioner who has turned the boy into a girl ; does a 
tempest come just when he is making fine weather, then 
he calmly demands a larger fee for stronger ceremonies, 
assuring his clients that they may thank him as it is, for 
how much worse it would have been had he not done what 
he did. And even setting aside all this accessory trickery, 
if we look at honest but unscientific people practising 
occult science in good faith, and face to face with facts, 
we shall see that the failures which condemn it in our 
eyes carry comparatively little weight in theirs. Part 
escape under the elastic pretext of a ‘ little more or less,' 
as the loser in the lottery consoles himself that his lucky 
number came within two of a prize, or the moon-observer 
points out triumphantly that a change of weather has come 
within two or three days before or after a quarter, so that 
his convenient definition of near a moon's quarter applies 
to four or six days out of every seven. Part escape through 
incapacity to appreciate negative evidence, which allows 
one success to outweigh half-a-dozen failures. How few 



there are even among the educated classes now, who 
have taken in the drift of that memorable passage in the 
beginning of the * Novum Organum : ' — ' The human under- 
standing, when any proposition has been once laid down 
(either from general admission and belief, or from the 
pleasure it affords), forces everything else to add fresh 
support and confirmation ; and although most cogent and 
abundant instances may exist to the contrary, yet either 
does not observe or despises them, or gets rid of and 
rejects them by some distinction, with violent and injurious 
prejudice, rather than sacrifice the authority of its first 
conclusions. It was well answered by him who was shown 
in a temple the votive tablets suspended by such as had 
escaped the peril of shipwreck, and was pressed as to 
whether he would then recognize the power of the gods, 
by an inquiry, But where are the portraits of those who 
have perished in spite of their vows ? " 

On the whole, the survival of symbolic magic through the 
middle ages and into our own times is an unsatisfactory, but 
not a mysterious fact. A once-established opinion, however 
delusive, can hold its own from age to age, for belief can 
propagate itself without reference to its reasonable origin, 
as plants are propagated from slips without fresh raising 
from the seed. 

The history of survival in cases like those of the folk-lore 
and occult arts which we have been considering, has for the 
most part been a history of dwindling and decay. As men's 
minds change in progressing culture, old customs and 
opinions fade gradually in a new and uncongenial atmo- 
sphere, or pass into states more congruous with the new life 
around them. But this is so far from being a law without 
exception, that a narrow view of history may often make it 
seem to be no law at all. For the stream of civilization winds 
and turns upon itself, and what seems the bright onward 
current of one age may in the next spin round in a whirling 

^ Bacon, ‘ Novum Organum.* The original story is that of Diagoras j see 
Cicero, * Dc Natura Dcorum,* iii. 37 j Diog. Laert. lib. vi., Diogenes, 6. 



eddy, or spread into a dull and pestilential swamp. Study- 
ing with a wide view the course of human opinion, we may 
now and then trace on from the very turning-point the 
change from passive survival into active revival. Some 
well-known belief or custom has for centuries shown 
symptoms of decay, when we begin to see that the state of 
society, instead of stunting it, is favouring its new growth, 
and it bursts forth again with a vigour often as marvellous 
as it is unhealthy. And though the revival be not destined 
to hold on indefinitely, and though when opinion turns 
again its ruin may be more merciless than before, yet it 
may last for ages, make its way into the inmost constitution 
of society, and even become a very mark and characteristic 
of its time. 

Writers who desire to show that, with all our faults, we 
are wnser and better than our ancestors, dwell willingly on 
the history of witchcraft between the middle and modern 
ages. They can quote Martin Luther, apropos of the 
witches who spoil the farmers* butter and eggs, * I would 
have no pity on these witches ; I would bum them all.* 
They can show the good Sir Matthew Hale hanging witches 
in Suffolk, on the authority of scripture and the consenting 
wisdom of all nations ; and King James presiding at the 
torture of Dr. Fian for bringing a storm against the king’s 
ship on its course from Denmark, by the aid of a fleet of 
witches in sieves, w^ho carried out a christened cat 10 sea. In 
those dreadful days, to be a blear-eyed wizened cripple was 
to be worth tw^enty shillings to a witch-finder ; for a w^oman 
to have what this witch-finder was pleased to call the devirs 
mark on her body was presumption for judicial sentence of 
death ; and not to bleed or shed tears or sink in a pond was 
torture first and then the stake. Reform of religion w^as no 
cure for the disease of men*s minds, for in such things the 
Puritan was no worse than the Inquisitor, and no better. 
Papist and Protestant fought with one another, but both 
turned against that enemy of t^ie human race, the hag who 
had sold herself to Satan to ride upon a broonisti^, and to 


suck children's blood, and to be for life and death of all 
creatures the most wretched. But with new enlightenment 
there came in the very teeth of law and authority a change 
in European opinion. Toward the end of the seventeenth 
century the hideous superstition was breaking down among 
ourselves ; Richard Baxter, of the ‘ Saint's Rest,' strove 
with fanatic zeal to light again at home the witch-fires of 
New England, but he strove in vain. Year by year the 
persecution of witches became more hateful to the educated 
classes, and though it died hard, it died at last down to a 
vestige. In our days, when we read of a witch being 
burnt at Camargo in i860, we point to Mexico as a 
country miserably in the rear of civilization. And if in 
England it still happens that village boors have to be tried 
at quarter-sessions for ill-using some poor old woman, who 
they fancy has dried a cow or spoiled a turnip crop, we 
comment on the tenacity with which the rustic mind clings 
to exploded follies, and cry out for more schoolmasters. 

True as all this is, the ethnographer must go wider and 
deeper in his enquiry, to do his subject justice. The pre- 
vailing belief in witchcraft that sat like a nightmare on 
public opinion from the 13th to the 17th centuries, far from 
being itself a product of mediaevalism, was a revival from the 
remote days of primaeval history. The disease that broke out 
afresh in Europe had been chronic among the lower races 
for how many ages we cannot tell. Witchcraft is part and 
parcel of savage life. There are rude races of Austrailia 
and South America whose intense belief in it has led them 
to declare that if men were never bewitched, and never 
killed by violence, they would not die at all. Like the 
Australians, the Africans will inquire of their dead what 
sorcerer slew them by his wicked arts, and when they have 
satisfied themselves of this, blood must atone for blood. 
In West Africa, it has been boldly asserted that the belief 
in witchcraft costs more lives than the slave trade ever did. 
In East Africa, Captain Burton, a traveller apt to draw his 
social sketches in a few sharp lines, remarks that what with 


slavery and what with black-magic, life is precarious atn^gC 
the Wakhutu, and 'no one, especially in old age, is safe from 
being burnt at a day’s notice ; ’ and, travelling in the country 
of the Wazaramo, he tells us of meeting every few miles with 
heaps of ashes and charcoal, now and then such as seemed 
to have been a father and mother, with a little heap hard by 
that was a child. ‘ Even in districts of British India a 
state of mind ready to produce horrors like these is well 
known to exist, and to be kept do\m less by persuasion 
than by main force. From the le^el of savage life, we trace 
witchcraft surviving thrq^hout the barbarian-and early 
civilized world. It was existing in Europe in the centuries 
preceding tEe loth, but with no especial prominence, while 
laws of Rothar and Charlemagne are actually directed 
against such as should put men or w’omen to death on the 
charge of witchcraft. In the nth century, ecclesiastical 
influence was discouraging the superstitious belief in sorcery. 
But now a period of reaction set in. The works of the 
monastic legend and miracle-mongers more and more en- 
couraged a baneful credulity as to the supernatural. In the 
13th century, when the spirit of religious persecution had 
begun to possess all Europe with a dark and cruel madness, 
the doctrine of witchcraft revived with all its barbaric 
vigour.® That the guilt of thus bringing down Europe intel- 
lectually and morally to the level of negro Africa lies in the 
main upon the Roman Church, the records of Popes Gregory 
IX. and Innocent VIII., and the history of the Holy In- 
quisition, are conclusive evidence to prove. To us here the 
main interest of mediaeval witchcraft lies in the extent 
and accuracy with which the theory of survival explains it. 
In the very details of the bald conventional accusations 
that w^ere sworn against the witches, there may be traced 

' Du ChaiUu, * Ashango-land,’ pp. 428, 435; Burton, ‘Central Afr.’ 
vol. i. pp. 57^ 113, 121. 

* See Grimm, ‘ D. M.’ ch. xxxiv. ; Lccky, * Hist, of Rationalism,’ vol i. 
chap. i. ; Horst, ' Zauber-Bibllothek ; ’ Raynald, ‘ Annalcs Ecdesiastici,’ 
vol. ii., Greg. IX. (1233), xli.-ii. ; Innoc. VTII. (1484). Ixxiv. 



tradition often hardly modified from barbarous and savage 

times. They raised storms by magic rites, they had charms 
against the hurt of weapons, they had their assemblies on 
wild heath and mountain-top, they could ride through the 
air on beasts and even turn into witch-cats and were-wolves 
themselves, they had familiar spirits, they had intercourse 
with incubi and succubi, they conveyed thorns, pins, feathers 
and such things into their victims' bodies, they caused disease 
by demoniacal possession, they could bewitch by spells and 
the evil eye, by practising on images and symbols, on food 
and property. Now all this is sheer survival from prae-Chris- 
tian ages, ‘ in errore paganorum revolvitur,' as Burchard 
of Worms said of the superstition of his time.^ Two of the 
most familiar devices used against the mediaeval witches may 
serve to show the place in civilization of the whole craft. 
The Oriental jinn are in such deadly terror of iron, that 
its very name is a charm against them ; and so in European 
folk-lore iron drives away fairies and elves, and destroys 
their power. They are essentially, it seems, creatures 
belonging to the ancient Stone Age, and the new metal is 
hateful and hurtful to them. Now as to iron, witches are 
brought under the same category as elves and nightmares. 
Iron instruments keep them at bay, and especially iron 
horseshoes have been chosen for this purpose, as half the 
stable doors in England still show.* Again, one of the best 
knowm of English witch ordeals is the trial by ' fleeting ’ 
or swimming. Bound hand and foot, the accused was flung 
into deep w^ater, to sink if innocent and swim if guilty, and 
in the latter case, as Hudibras has it, to be hanged only for 
not being drowned. King James, who seems to have had 
a notion of the real primitive meaning of this rite, says in 
his Daemonology, ' It appears that God hath appointed 

^ See also Dasent, ‘ Introd. to Norse Talcs Maury^ * Magic, Ac./ ch. vii. 
* Lane, ‘ Thousand and One Nights,’ vol. i. p. 30 ; Grimm, ‘ D. M.* 
pp. 435, 465, 1056 ; Bastian, * Mensch,’ vol. ii. pp. 265, 287 ; vol. iii. p. 204 ; 
D. Wilson, ‘Prehistoric Annals of Scotland,’ vol. ii. p. 126; Wuttke, 
‘ Volksabcrglaube,* pp. 15, 20, 122, 220. 


for a supernatural signe of the monstrous impietie of 
witches, that the water shall refuse to receive them in 
her bosom that have shaken off them the sacred water of 
baptism,' &c. Now, in early German history this same 
trial by water was well known, and its meaning recognized 
to be that the conscious element rejects the guilty (si aqua 
ilium velut innoxium receperit — innoxii submerguntur aqua, 
culpabiles supernatant). Already in the 9th century the 
laws were prohibiting this practice as a rehc of superstition. 
Lastly, the same trial by water is recognized as one of the 
regular judicial ordeals in the Hindu code of Manu ; if the 
water does not cause the accused to float when plunged into 
it, his oath is true. As this ancient Indian body of laws 
was itself no doubt compiled from materials of still earlier 
date, we may venture to take the correspondence of the 
water-ordeal among the European and Asiatic branches of 
the Aryan race as carrying back its origin to a period of 
remote antiquity.' 

Let us hope that if the belief in present witchcraft, and 
the persecution necessarily ensuing upon such belief, once 
more come into prominence in the civilized world, they may 
appear in a milder shape than heretofore, and be kept down 
by stronger humanity and tolerance. But any one who 
fancies from their present disappearance that they have 
necessarily disappeared for ever, must have read history to 
little purpose, and has yet to learn that ‘ revival in culture ' 
is something more than an empty pedantic phrase. Our 
own time has revived a group of beliefs and practices which 
have their roots deep in the very stratum of early philosophy 
where witchcraft makes its first appearance. This group 
of beliefs and practices constitutes what is now commonly 
known as Spiritualism. 

Witchcraft and Spiritualism have existed for thousands 
of years in a closeness of imion not unfairly typified in this 

' Brand, ‘ Pop. Ant.* vo!. iii. pp. 1-43 ; Wutikc, * Volktaberglaube,' p. 50 j 
Grimm, ‘ Deutsche Rechtsaltcrthiimer,* p. 923 ; Pictet, * Origmet Indo- 
Europ.’ part ii, p. 459 ; Manu, viii., 114-5 : ice Plin. vii, 2, 



verse from John Bale's 16th-century Interlude concerning 

Nature, which brings under one head the art of bewitching 
vegetables and poultry .-and causing sup)ematural movement 
of stools and crockery. 

‘ Theyr wells I can up dryc, 
Cause trees and herbes to dye, 
And alee all pultcryc, 

Whereas men doth me move : 
1 can make stoles to daunce 
And earthen pottes to praunce, 
That none shall them enhaunce, 
And do but cast my glove.’ 

The same intellectual movement led to the decline of both 
witchcraft and spiritualism, till, early in the last century, 
men thought that both were dying or all but dead together. 
Now, however, not only are spiritualists to be counted by 
tens of thousands in America and England, but there are 
among them several men of distinguished mental power. I 
am well aware that the problem of the so-called ‘ spirit- 
manifestations ’ is one to be discussed on its merits, in 
order to arrive at a distinct opinion how far it may be con- 
cerned with facts insufficiently appreciated and explained by 
science, and how far with superstition, delusion, and sheer 
knavery. Such investigation, pursued by careful observ’ation 
in a scientific spirit, would seem apt to throw light on some 
most interesting psychological questions. But though it 
lies beyond my scope to examine the spiritualistic evidence 
for itself, the ethnographic view of the matter has, neverthe- 
less, its value. This shows modem spiritualism to be in 
great measure a direct revival from the regions of savage 
philosophy and peasant folk-lore. It is not a simple ques- 
tion of the existence of certain phenomena of mind and 
matter. It is that, in connexion with these phenomena, a 
great philosophic-religious doctrine, flourishing in the lower 
culture but dwindling in the higher, has re-established itself 
in full vigour. The world is again swarming with intelli- 
gent and powerful disembodied spiritual beings, whose direct 



action on thought and matter is again confidently asserted, 
as in those times and countries where physical science had 
not as yet so far succeeded in extruding these spirits and 
their influences from the system of nature. 

Apparitions have regained the place and meaning which 
they held from the level of the lower races to that of medi- 
aeval Europe. The regular ghost-stories; in which spirits of 
the dead wadk visibly and have intercourse with corporeal 
men, are now restored and cited with new examples as 

* glimpses of the night-side of nature,' nor have these 
stories changed either their strength to those who are dis- 
posed to believe them, or their weakness to those vrho are 
not. As of old, men live now in habitual intercourse with 
the spirits of the dead. Necromancy is a religion, and the 
Chinese manes-worshipper may see the outer barbarians 
come back, after a heretical interval of a few centuries, into 
sympathy with liis time-honoured creed. As the sorcerers 
of barbarous tribes lie in bodily lethargy or sleep while 
their souls depart on distant journeys, so it is not uncommon 
in modern spiritualistic narratives for persons to be in an 
insensible state when their apparitions visit distant places, 
whence they bring back information, and where they com- 
municate with the living. The spirits of the living as well 
as of the dead, the souls of Strauss and Carl Vogt as well as 
of Augustine aind Jerome, are summoned by mediums to 
distant spirit-circles. As Dr. Bastian remarks, if any cele- 
brated man in Eurojx? feels himself at some moment in a 
melancholy mood, he may console himself with the idea that 
his soul has been sent for to America, to assist at the 

* rough fixings ' of some backwoodsman. Fifty years ago. 
Dr. Macculloch, in his ' Description of the Western Islands 
of Scotland,' wrote thus of the famous Highland second- 
sight : ‘ In fact it has undergone the fate of witchcraft ; 
ceasing to be believed, it has ceased to exist.' Yet a gene- 
ration later he would have found it reinstated in a far 
larger range of society, and under far better circumstances 
of learning and material prosperity. Among the influences 



which have combined to bring about the spiritualistic renais- 
sance, a prominent place may, I think, be given to the effect 
produced on the religicfus mind of Europe and America by 
the intensely animistic teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg, 
in the i8th century. The position of this remarkable 
visionary as to some of the particular spiritualistic doctrines 
may be judged of by the following statements from * The 
True Christian Religion.* A man's spirit is his mind, which 
lives after death in complete human form, and this spirit 
may be conveyed from place to place while the body re* 
mains at rest, as on some occasions happened to Swedenborg 
himself. ‘ I have conversed,* he says, ‘ with all my rela- 
tions and friends, likewise with kings and princes, and men 
of learning, after their departure out of this life, and this 
now for twenty-seven years without interruption.* And 
foreseeing that many who read his * Memorable Relations * 
will believe them to be fictions of imagination, he protests in 
truth they are not fictions, but were really seen and heard ; 
not seen and heard in any state of mind in sleep, but in a 
state of complete wakefulness.^ 

I shall have to speak elsewhere of some of the doctrines 
of modern spiritualism, where they seem to fall into their 
places in the study of Animism. Here, as a means of illus- 
trating the relation of the newer to the older spiritualistic 
ideas, I propose to glance over the ethnography of two of the 
most popular means of communicating with the spirit-world 
by rapping and writing, and two of the prominent spirit- 
manifestations, the feat of rising in the air, and the trick of 
the Davenport Brothers. 

The elf who goes knocking and routing about the house 
at night, and whose special German name is the * Polter- 
geist,* is an old and familiar personage in European folk-lore.* 
From of old, such unexplained noises have been ascribed to 
the agency of personal spirits, who more often than not are 

' Swedenborg, ‘The True Chrittlan Religion,' London, 1855, Not. 156, 
157, 181, 851, 

* Grimm, ‘ Deutsche Myth,* pp. 473, 481. 



considered human souls. The modem Dayaks, Siamese, and 

Singhalese agree with the Esths as to such routing and rap- 
ping being caused by spirits.' Knockings may be considered 
mysterious but harmless, like those which in Swabia and 
Franconia are expected during Advent on the Anklopferleins- 
Nachte, or 'Little Knockers' Nights.'* Or they may be 
useful, as when the Welsh miners think that the ' knockers * 
they hear underground are indicating the rich veins of lead 
and silver.* Or they may be simply annoying, as when, in 
the ninth century, a malignant spirit infested a parish by 
knocking at the walls as if with a hammer, but being over- 
come with litanies and holy water, confessed itself to be 
the familiar of a certain wicked priest, and to have been in 
hiding under his cloak. Thus, in the seventeenth century, 
the famous demon-dmmmer of Tedworth, commemorated 
by Glanvil in the * Saducismus Triumphatus,' thumped 
about the doors and the outside of the house, and ' for an 
hour together it would beat Roundheads and Cuckolds, the 
TaUioo, and several other Points of War, as well as any 
Drummer.'* But popular philosophy has mostly attached 
to such mysterious noises a foreboding of death, the knock 
being held as a signal or summons among spirits as among 
men. The Romans considered that the genius of death 
thus announced his coming. Modem folk-lore holds either 
that a knocking or rumbling in the floor is an omen of a 
death about to happen, or that dying persons themselves 
announce their dissolution to their friends in such strange 
sounds. The English rule takes in both cases : ' Three loud 
and distinct knocks at the bed's head of a sick person, or at 
the bed's head or door of any of his relations, is an omen of 
his death.' We happen to have a good means of testing 

' St. John, * Far East,' vol. i, p, 82 ; Battian, ‘ Ptychologic,’ p. 1 1 1 ; ‘ Oestl. 
Atien.’ vol. iii. pp. 232, 259, 288 ; Beeler, ‘ Ehsten Aberglaube,’ p. 147. 

• Battian, * Mcntch,’ vol. ii. p. 74. 

• Brand, vol. ii. p. 486. 

• Glanvil, ‘ Saducitmut Txiumphatut,* part ii. The invisible drummer 
appears to have been one William Drury ; see * Pepys* Diary,* vol. i. 
p. 217. 



the amount of actual correspondence between omen and 
event necessary to establish these rules : the illogical people 
who were (and still are), able to discover a connexion between 
the ticking of the * death-watch * beetle and an ensuing 
death in the house, no doubt found it equally easy to give a 
prophetic interpretation to any other mysterious knocks. ‘ 
There is a story,, dated 1534, of a ghost that answered 
questions by knocking in the Catholic church of Orleans, 
and demanded the removal of the provost’s Lutheran wife, 
who had been buried there ; but the affair proved to be a 
trick of a Franciscan friar.* The system of working an 
alphabet by counted raps is a device familiar to prison-cells, 
where it has long been at once the despair of gaolers and 
an evidence of the diffusion of education even among the 
criminal classes. Thus when, in 1847, celebrated 
rappings began to trouble the township of Arcadia in the 
State of New York, the Fox family of Rochester, founders 
of the modem spiritual movement, had on the one hand 
only to revive the ancient prevalent belief in spirit-rappings, 
which had almost fallen into the limbo of discredited super- 
stitions, while, on the other hand, the system of communi- 
cation with the spirits was ready made to their hand. The 
system of a rapping-alphabet remains in full use, and 
numberless specimens of messages thus received are in 
print, possibly the longest being a novel, of which I can 
only give the title, ' Juanita, Nouvelle par une Chaise. A 
rimprimerie du Gouvemement, Basse Terre (Guadeloupe), 
1853.’ In the recorded communications, names, dates, &c., 
are often alleged to have been stated under remarkable 
circumstances, while the style of thought, language, and 
spelling fits with the intellectual quality of the medium. 
A large proportion of the communications being obviously 
false and silly, even when the * spirit ’ has announced itself 

' Brand, vol. iii. pp. 2Z5, 233; Grimm, pp. 801, 1089, 1141; Wuttkc, 
PP* ; Shortland, ‘ Trads. of New Zealand,’ p. 137 (ominous ticking 

of insect, doubtful whether idea native, or introduced by foreigners). 

* Bastian, ‘ Mensch,’ vol. ii. p, 393. 



in the name of some great statesman, moralist, or philo- 
sopher of the past, the theory has been adopted by spiritual- 
ists that foolish or lying spirits are apt to personate those 
of higher degree, and give messages in their names. 

Spirit-writing is of two kinds, according as it is done 
with or without a material instrument. The first kind is in 
full practice in China, where, like other rites of divination, 
it is probably ancient. It is called * descending of the 
pencil,* and is especially used by the literary classes. 
When a Chinese wishes to consult a god in this way, he 
sends for a professional medium. Before the image of the 
god are set candles and incense, and an offering of tea or 
mock money. In front of this, on another table, is placed 
an oblong tray of dry sand. The writing instrument is a 
V-shaf>ed wooden handle, two or three feet long, with a 
wooden tooth fixed at its point. Two persons hold this 
instrument, each grasping one leg of it, and the point 
resting in the sand. Proper prayers and charms induce 
the god to manifest his presence by a movement of the 
point in the sand, and thus the response is written, and 
there only remains the somewhat difficult and doubtful task 
of deciphering it. To what state of opinion the rite 
belongs may 1x3 judged from this : when the sacred apricot- 
tree is to be robbed of a branch to make the spirit-pen an 
apologetic inscription is scratched upon the trunk. ^ Not- 
withstanding theological differences between China and 
England, the art of spirit-writing is much the same in 
the two countries. A kind of ‘ planchette ’ seems to 
have been known in Europe in the seventeenth century.* 
The instrument, which may now be bought at the toy-shops, 
is a heart -shajx^d board some seven inches long, resting on 
three supports, of which the tw^o at the wide end are castors, 
and the third at the pointed end is a pencil thrust through 

^ Doolittle, ‘Chinese,’ vol. ii. p. 112; Bastian, ‘ Oettl. Asien,' vol. iii. 
p. 252 ; * Psychologic,’ p. 159. 

* Toehla. ‘ Aurilontina Chymica,’ cited by K. R. H. Mackenzie, in 
‘ Spiritualist/ Mar. 15, 1870. 


a hole in the board. The instrument is placed on a sheet 

of paper, and worked by two persons laying their fingers 
lightly on it, waiting till, without conscious effort of the 
operators, it moves and writes answers to questions. It is 
not everybody who has the faculty of spirit-writing, but a 
powerful medium will write alone. Such mediums some- 
times consider themselves acted on by some power separate 
from themselves, in fact, possessed. 

Ecclesiastical history commemorates a miracle at the 
close of the Nicene Council. Two bishops, CJirysanthus 
and Mysonius, had died during its sitting, and the remain- 
ing crowd of Fathers brought the acts, signed by themselves, 
to the tomb, addressed the deceased bishops as if still alive, 
and left the document. Next day, returning, they found 
the two signatures added, to this effect : — ‘ We, Chrysan- 
thus and Mysonius, consenting ^vith all the Fathers in the 
holy first and oecumenical Nicene Synod, although translated 
from the body, have also signed the volume with our own 
hands.'^ Such spirit-writing without material instrument 
has lately been renewed by the Baron de Guldenstubb^. 
This writer confirms by new evidence the truth of the 
^ tradition of all peoples as to souls of the dead keeping up 
their connexion with their mortal remains, and haunting the 
places where they dwelt ‘ during their terrestrial incarna- 
tion.* Thus Francis I. manifests himself principally at 
Fontainebleau, while Louis XV. and Marie-Antoinette roam 
about the Trianons. Moreover, if pieces of blank paper be 
set out in suitable places, the spirits, enveloped in their 
ethereal bodies, will concentrate by their force of will 
electric currents on the paper, and so form written 
characters. The Baron publishes, in his ‘ Pneumatologie 
Positive,* a mass of facsimiles of spirit-writings thus 
obtained. Julius and Augustus Caesar give their names 
near their statues in the Louvre ; Juvenal produces a 
ludicrous attempt at a copy of verses ; H61oise at P6re-la- 

^ Nicephor. Callist. Ecclestast. Hist. viii. 23 j Stanley, ' Eaitern Church,* 
p. 172. 



Chaise informs the world, in modem French, that Abelard 
and she are united and happy ; St. Paul writes himself 

cXficTTO? airocrroAov (meaning, we may suppose, fXaxwrro^ 
air<xrro\wv ) ; and Hippokrates the physician (who spells 
himself Hippdkrates) attended M. de Guldenstubb^ at his 
lodgings in Paris, and gave him a signature which of itself 
cured a sharp attack of rheumatism in a few minutes. ‘ 

miracle of rising and floating in the air is one fully 
recognized in the literature of ancient India. The Buddhist 
saint of high ascetic rank attains the power called ' perfec- 
tion ’ (irdhi), whereby he is able to rise in the air, as also to 
overturn the earth and stop the sun. Having this power, 
the saint exercises it by the mere determination of his will, 
his body becoming imponderous, as when a man in the com- 
mon human state determines to leap, and leaps. Buddhist 
annals relate the pt^rformance of the miraculous suspen- 
sion by Gautama himself, as well as by other saints, as, for 
example, his ancestor Maha Sammata, who could thus seat 
himself in the air without visible support. Even without 
this exalted faculty, it is considered possible to rise and 
move in the air by an effort of ecstatic joy (udwega priti). 
A remarkable mention of this feat, as said to be i>erformed 
by the Indian Brahmans, occurs in the third-century bio- 
graphy of Apollonius of Tyana , these Brahmans are de- 
scribed as going about in the air some two cubits from 
the ground, not for the sake of miracle Kuch ambition they 
despised), but for its being more suitable to solar rites.* 
Foreign conjurers were professing to exhibit this miracle 
among the Greeks in the second centur>% as witness 
Lucian's jocular account of the Hyperborean conjurer : — 

' ‘ Pncuinatologie Posirivc ci Exp^rjmcnialc ^ La Rialiti dcs Esprits ct 
le Phinomcnc Merveilieux dc Icur Ecrilurt Dircctc d^montr^s/ par le 
Baron L. dc Guldcnstubb^. Paris, 1857. 

* Hardy, ‘ Manual of Budhism,' pp. 38, 126, 150 *, ‘ Eastern Monachism,* 
pp. 27Z, 285, 382 \ Koppen, * Religion des Buddha,’ vol. i. p. 412 ; Bastian, 
* Ocstl. Asicn,’ vol. iii. p. 390 ^ Philostrati Vila Apollon. Tyan. iii. 15. Sec 
the rnention among the Saadhs of India (lyih century), by Trant, in 
‘ Missionary Register,’ July, 1820, pp. 294-6. 

I.— L 


‘ Thou art joking, said Kleodemos, but I was once more in- 
credulous than thou about such things, for I thought nothing 
could have persuaded me to believe them ; but when I first 
saw that foreign barbarian flying — ^he was of the Hyperbo- 
reans, he said — I believed, and was overcome in spite of my 
resistance. For what was I to do, when I saw him carried 
through the air in daylight, and walking on the water, and 
passing leisurely and slowly through the fire ? What ? 
(said his interlocutor), you saw the Hyperborean manfljdng, 
and walking on the water ? To be sure, said he, and he had 
on undressed leather brogues as they generally wear them ; 
but what’s the use of talking of such trifles, considering 
what other manifestations he showed us, — sending loves, 
calling up demons, raising the dead, and bringing in Hekate 
herself visibly, and drawing down the moon ? ’ Kleodemos 
then goes on to relate how the conjurer first had his four 
minae down for sacrificial expenses, and then made a clay 
Cupid, and sent it flying through the air to fetch the girl 
whom Glaukias had fallen in love with, and presently, lo 
and behold, there she was knocking at the door 1 The 
interlocutor, however, comments in a sceptical vein on the 
narrative. It was scarce needful, he says, to have taken the 
trouble to send for the girl with clay, and a magician from 
the Hyperboreans, and even the moon, considering that for 
twenty drachmas she would have let herself be taken to the 
Hyperboreans themselves; and she seems, moreover, to have 
been affected in quite an opposite way to spirits, for whereas 
these beings take flight if they hear the noise of brass or 
iron, Chrysis no sooner hears the chink of silver anywhere, 
but she comes toward the sound.' Another early instance 
of the belief in miraculous suspension is in the life of 
lamblichus, the great Neo-Platonist mystic. His disciples, 
says Eunapius, told him they had heard a report from his 
servants, that while in prayer to the gods he had been lifted 
more than ten cubits from the ground, his body and clothes 
changing to a beautiful golden colour, but after he ceased 

' Lucian. PhiJoptcudes, ij. 


from prayer his body became as before, and then he came 
down to the ground and returned to the society of his 
followers. They entreated him therefore, * Why, O most 
divine teacher, why dost thou do such things by thyself, and 
not let us partake of the more perfect wisdom ? ' Then 
lamblichus, though not given to laughter, laughed at this 
story, and said to them, ' It was no fool who tricked you 
thus, but the thing is not true.'^ 

After a while, the prodigy which the Platonist disclaimed, 
became a usual attribute of Christian saints. Thus St. 
Richard, then chancellor to St. Edmund, Archbishop of 
Canterbury, one day softly opening the chapel door, to see 
why the archbishop did not come to dinner, saw him raised 
high in the air. with his knees bent and his arms stretched 
out ; falling gently to the ground, and seeing the chancellor, 
he complained that he had hindered him of great spiritual 
delight and comfort. So St. Philip Neri used to be some- 
times seen raised several yards from the ground during his 
rapturous devotions, with a bright light shining from his 
countenance. St, Ignatius Loyola is declared to have been 
raised about two feet under the same circumstances, and 
similar legends of devout ascetics being not only metaphori- 
cally but materially ' raised above the earth ' are told in the 
lives of St. Dominic, St. Dunstan. St. Theresa, and other 
less-known saints. In the last century, Dom Calmet speaks 
of knowing a good monk who rises sometimes from the 
ground and remains involuntarily suspended, especially on 
seeing some devotional image or hearing some devout 
prayer, and also a nun who has often seen herself raised in 
spite of herself to a certain distance from the earth. Un- 
fortunately the great commentator does not sfyecify any 
witnesses as having seen the monk and nun rise in the air. 
If they only thought themselves thus elevated, their stories 
can only rank with that of the young man mentioned by De 
Maistre, who so often seemed to himself to float in the air, 
that he came to suspect that gravitation might not be natural 

^ Eunaptiit in Iambi. 



to man.' The hallucination of rising and floating in the air 
is extremely common, and ascetics of all religions are espe- 
cially liable to it. 

Among modem accounts of diabolic possession, also, the 
rising in the air is described as taking place not subjectively 
but objectively. In 1657, Richard Jones, a sprightly lad of 
twelve years old, hving at Shepton Mallet, was bewitched by 
one Jane Brooks ; he was seen to rise in the air and pass 
over a garden wall some thirty yards, and at other times 
was found in a room with his hands flat against a beam at 
the top of the room, and his body two or three feet from the 
ground, nine people at a time seeing him in this latter 
position. Jane Brooks was accordingly condemned and 
executed at Chard Assizes in March, 1658. Richard, the 
Surrey demoniac of 1689, was hoisted up in the air and let 
down by Satan ; at the beginning of his fits he was, as it 
were, blo^m or snatched or borne up suddenly from his 
chair, as if he would have flown away, but that those who 
held him hung to his amis and legs and clung about him. 
One account (not the official medical one ) of the demoniacal 
possessions at Morzine in Savoy, in 18O4, relates that a 
patient was held suspended in the air by an invisible force 
during some seconds or minutes above the cemetery, in 
the presence of the archbishop.* Modern spiritualists 
claim this power as possctssed by certain distinguished 
living mediums, who, indeed, profess to rival in sober fact 
the aerostatic miracles of Buddhist and Catholic legend. 
The force employed is of course consideied to be that of 
the spirits. 

The performances of tied mediums have V>ecn specially re- 
presented in England by the Davenport Brothers, who ‘ are 
generally recognized by Spiritualists as genuine media, and 

' Alban Butler, ‘ Lives of the Saints,* vol. i. p. 674 ; Calmet, * Diss. sur 
les Apparitions, &c.,* chap. xxi. ; Dc Maistre, * Soiri^es de St. P^tersbourg,’ 
vol, ii. pp. 158, 175. See also Bastian, ‘ Mensch,* vol. ii. p, 578 ; ' Ptycho- 

logic,’ p. 159* 

• Glanvil, ‘ Saducismus Triumphatus,’ part ii. j Bastian, ‘ Psychologic,* 
p. 161. 



attribute the reverse opinion so deeply rooted in the public 

mind, to the untruthfulness of the London and many other 
newspapers.* The performers were bound fast and shut by 
themselves in a dark cabinet, with musical instruments, 
whence not only musical sounds proceeded, but the coats of 
the mediums were taken off and replaced ; yet on inspection 
their bodies were discovered still bound. The spirits would 
also release the bound mediums from their cords, however 
carefully tied about them.^ Now the idea of supernatural 
unbinding is very ancient, vouched for as it is by no less a 
p)ersonage than the crafty Odysseus himself, in his adven- 
ture on board the ship of the Thesprotians : 

‘ Me on the wcll-bcnchcd vessel, strongly bound, 

They leave, and snatch their meal upon the beach. 

But to my help the gods themselves unwound 
My cords with ease, though firmly twisted round.’ 

In early English chronicle, w^e find it in a story told by the 
\’enerable Bede. A certain Imma was found all but dead 
on the field of battle, and taken prisoner, but when he began 
to recover and w'as put in bonds to prevent his escaping, no 
sooner did his binders leave him but he w^as loose again. 
The earl who owmed him enquired whether he had about 
him such ‘ loosening letters ' (literas solutorias) as tales 
were told of ; the man replied that he knew^ naught of such 
arts; yet when his owner sold him to another master, there 
was still no binding him. The received explanation of this 
strange power w^cis emphatically a spiritual one. His brother 
had sought for his dead body, and finding another like him, 
buried it and proceeded to say masses for his brother s soul, 
by the celebration whereof it came to pass that no one 
could fasten him, for he was out of bonds again directly. 
So they sent him home to Kent, whence he duly returned 
his ransom, and his story, it is related, stimulated many to 
devotion, who undei-stood by it how^ salutary are masses to 

' ‘ Spiritualist,’ Feb. 15, 1870. Orrin Abbott, * The Davenport Brothers,* 
New York, 1864. 



the redemption both of soul and body. Again, there pre- 
vailed in Scotland up to the i8th century this notion : when 
the lunatics who had been brought to St. Fillan's Pool to be 
bathed, were laid bound in the neighbouring church next 
night, if they were found loose in the morning their re- 
covery was expected, but if at dawn they were still bound, 
their cure was doubtful. 

The untying trick performed among savages is so similar 
to that of our mountebanks, that when we find the North 
American Indian jugglers doing both this and the familiar 
trick of breathing fire, we are at a loss to judge whether 
they inherited these two feats from their savage ancestors, 
or borrowed them from the white men. The point is not, 
however, the mere performance of the untying trick, but 
its being attributed to the help of spiritual beings. This 
notion is thoroughly at home in savage culture. It comes 
out well in the Esquimaux’ accounts which date from early 
in the i8th century, Cranz thus describes the Greenland 
angekok setting out on his mystic journey to heaven and 
hell. When he has drummed awhile and made all sorts of 
wondrous contortions, he is himself bound with a thong by 
one of his pupils, his head between his legs, and his hands 
behind his back. All the lamps in the house are put out, 
and the windows darkened, for no one must see him hold 
intercourse with his spirit, no one must move or even scratch 
his head, that the spirit may not be interfered with — or 
rather, says the missionary, that no one may catch him at 
his trickery, for there is no going up to heaven in broad 
daylight. At last, after strange noises have been heard, 
and a visit has been received or paid to the torhgak or 
spirit, the magician reapp)ears unbound, but pale and 
excited, and gives an account of his adventures. Castr^n’s 
account of the similar proceedings of the Siberian shamans 
is as follows : ‘ They are practised ' he says, * in all sorts 
of conjming-tricks, by which they know how to dazzle the 
simple crowd, and inspire greater trust in themselves. One 
of the most usual juggleries of the shamans in the Govern- 



ment of Tomsk consists of the following hocus-pocus, a 

wonder to the Russians as well as to the Samoieds. The 
shaman sits down on the wrong side of a dry reindeer-hide 
spread in the middle of the floor. There he lets himself be 
bound hand and foot by the assistants. The shutters are 
closed, and the shaman begins to invoke his ministering 
spirits. All at once there arises a mysterious ghostliness in 
the dark space. Voices are heard from different parts, 
both within and without the yurt, while on the dry reindeer 
skin there is a rattling and drumming in regular time. 
Bears growl, snakes hiss, and squirrels leap about in the 
room. At last this uncanny work ceases, and the audience 
impatiently await the result of the game. A few moments 
pass in this exp)ectation, and behold, the shaman walk^ in 
free and unbound from outside. No one doubts that it was 
the spirits who were drumming, growling, and hissing, who 
released the shaman from his bonds, and who carried him 
by secret ways out of the yurt.'^ 

On the whole, the ethnography of spiritualism bears on 
practical opinion somewhat in this manner. Beside the 
question of the absolute truth or falsity of the alleged 
possessions, names-oracles, doubles, brain-waves, furniture 
movings, and floatings in the air, there remains the history 
of spiritualistic belief as a matter of opinion. Hereby 
it appears that the received spiritualistic theory of the 
alleged phenomena belongs to the philosophy of savages. 
As to such matters as apparitions or possessions this is 
obvious, and it holds in more extreme cases. Suppose a 
wild North American Indian looking on at a spirit-seance 
in London. As to the presence of disembodied spirits, 
manifesting themselves by raps, noises, voices, and other 

' Homer. Ody«i. xiv, 345 (Worslcy’s Tram.) ; Beda, * Historia Eedesias- 
lica,’ iv. zi ; Grimm, ‘ D. M.,’ p. 1180 (an old German loosing-charm is given 
from the Merseburg MS.); J. Y. Simpson, in * Proc. Ant. Soc, Scotland,’ 
vol. Iv. *, Keating, ‘ Long’s Exp. to St. Peter’s River,’ vol. ii. p. 159 ; Egedc, 
Greenland,’ p. 189 •, Cram, ' Gr^nland,’ p. 269 ; Casir^n, ‘ Reisebcrichte,’ 
1845.9, P- > 73 * 



physical actions, the savage would be perfectly at home in 
the proceedings, for such things are part and parcel of his 
recognized system of nature. The part of the affair really 
strange to him would be the introduction of such arts as 
spelling and writing, which do belong to a different state of 
civilization from his. The issue raised by the comparison 
of savage, barbaric, and civilized spiritualism, is this : Do 
the Red Indian medicine-man, the Tatar necromancer, the 
Highland ghost-seer, and the Boston medium, share the 
possession of belief and knowledge of the highest truth and 
import, which, nevertheless, the great intellectual movement 
of the last two centuries has simply thrown aside as worth- 
less ? Is what we are habitually boasting of and calling new 
enlightenment, then, in fact adecay of knowledge? If so, this 
is a truly remarkable case of degeneration, and the savages 
whom some ethnographers look on as degenerate from a 
higher civilization, may turn on their accusers and charge 
them with having fallen from the high level of savage 

Throughout the whole of this varied investigation, whether 
of the dwindling survival of old culture, or of its bursting 
forth afresh in active revival, it may perhaps be complained 
that its illustrations should be chosen so much among things 
worn out, worthless, frivolous, or even bad with downright 
harmful folly. It is in fact so, and I have taken up this 
course of argument with full knowledge and intent. For, 
indeed, we have in such enquiries continual reason to be 
thankful for fools. It is quite wonderful, even if we hardly 
go below the surface of the subject, to see how large a share 
stupidity and unpractical conservatism and dogged super- 
stition have had in preserving for us traces of the history of 
our race, which practical utilitarianism wouldhave remorse- 
lessly swept away. The savage is firmly, obstinately conser- 
vative. No man appeals with more unhesitating confidence 
to the great precedent-makers of the past ; the wisdom of 
his ancestors can control against the most obvious evidence 
his own opinions and actions. We listen with pity to the 


rude Indian as he maintains against civilized science and 
experience the authority of his rude forefathers. We smile 
at the Chinese appealing against modem innovation to the 
golden precepts of Confucius, who in his time looked back 
with the same prostrate reverence to sages still more 
ancient, counselling his disciples to follow the seasons of 
Hea, to ride in the carriage of Yin, to wear the ceremonial 
cap of Chow. 

The nobler tendency of advancing culture, and above all 
of scientific culture, is to honour the dead without grovel- 
ling before them, to profit by the past without sacrificing the 
present to it. Yet even the modern civilized world has but 
half learnt this lesson, and an unprejudiced survey may lead 
us to judge how many of our ideas and customs exist rather 
by being old than by being good. Now in dealing with 
hurtful superstitions, the proof that they are things which 
it is the tendency of savagery to produce, and of higher 
culture to destroy, is accepted as a fair controversial 
argument. The mere historical position of a belief or 
custom may raise a presumption as to its origin which 
becomes a presumption as to its authenticity. Dr. Middle- 
ton's celebrated Letter from Rome shows cases in point. 
He mentions the image of Diana at Ephesus which fell 
from the sky, thereby damaging the pretensions of the 
Calabrian image of St. Dominic, wliich, according to pious 
tradition, was likewise brought down from heaven. He 
notices that as the blood of St. Januarius now melts miracu- 
lously without heat, so ages ago the priests of Gnatia tried 
to persuade Horace, on his road to Brundusium, that the 
frankincense in their temple had the habit of melting in 
like manner : 

* . . . dehinc Gnatia lymphia 

Iratis exstructa dedic risusque jocosque ; 

Dum flamma sine thura liquescere limine sacro, 
Persuadere cupit : credat Judaeus Apella ; 

Non ego.’^ 

^ Conyers Middleton, * A Letter from Rome,* 1729 j Hor. Sat. I. v, 98. 



Thus ethnographers, not without a certain grim satisfaction, 
may at times find means to make stupid and evil su{>ersti- 
tions bear Witness against themselves. 

Moreover, in working to gain ah insight into the general 
laws of intellectual movement, there is practical gain in 
being able to study them rather among antiquarian relics of 
no intense modem interest, than among those seething 
problems of the day on which action has to be taken amid 
ferment and sharp strife. Should some moralist or politi- 
cian speak contemptuously of the vanity of stud5dng 
matters without practical moment, it will generally be 
foimd that his own mode of treatment will consist in 
partizan diatribes on the questions of the day, a proceeding 
practical enough, especially in confirming those who agree 
with him already, but the extreme opposite to the scientific 
way of eUciting truth. The ethnographer’s course, again, 
should be like that of the anatomist who carries on his 
studies if possible rather on dead than on living subjects ; 
vivisection is nervous work, and the humane investigator 
hates inflicting needless pain. Tlius when the student of 
culture occupies himself in viewing the bearings of exploded 
controversies, or in unravelling* the history of long-super- 
seded inventions, he is gladly seeking his evidence rather 
in such dead old history, than in the discussions where he 
and those he lives among are alive with intense party feel- 
ing, and where his judgment is biassed by the pressure of 
personal sympathy, and even it may be of personal gain or 
loss. So, from things which perhaps never were of high 
importance, things which have fallen out of popular signi- 
ficance, or even out of popular memory, he tries to elicit 
general laws of culture, often to be thus more easily and 
fully gained than in the arena of modem philosophy and 

But the opinions drawn from old or wom-out culture are 
not to be left lying where they were shaped. It is no more 
reasonable to suppose the laws of mind differently con- 
stituted in Australia and in England, in the time of the 



cave-dwellers and in the time of the builders of sheet-iron 
houses, than to suppose that the laws of chemical combina- 
tion were of one sort in the time of the coal-measures, and 
are of another now. The thing that has been will be ; and 
we are to study savages and old nations to learn the laws 
that under new circumstances are working for good or ill in 
our own development. If it is needful to give an instance 
of the directness with which antiquity and savagery bear 
upon our modern life, let it be taken in the facts just 
brought forward on the relation of ancient sorcery to the 
belief in witchcraft which was not long since one of the 
gravest facts of European history, and of savage spiritualism 
to beliefs which so deeply affect our civilization now. No 
one who can see in these cases, and in many others to be 
brought before him in these volumes, how direct and close 
the connexion may be between modern culture and the 
condition of the rudest savage, will be prone to accuse 
students who spend their labour on even the lowest and 
most trifling facts of ethnography, of wasting their hours in 
the satisfaction of a frivolous curiosity. 



Element of directly expressive Sound in Language — Test by independent 
correspondence in distinct languages — Constituent processes of Lan- 
guage — Gesture — Expression of feature, &c. — Emotional Tone — Articu- 
late sounds, vowels determined by musical quality and pitch, consonants 
— Emphasis and Accent — Phrase-melody, Recitative — Sound-Words — 
Interjections — Calls to Animals — Emotional Cries — Sense-Words formed 
from Interjections — Affirmative and Negative particles, &c. 

In carrying on the enquiry into the development of cul- 
ture, evidence of some weight is to be gained from an 
examination of Language. Comparing the grammars and 
dictionaries of races at various grades of civilization, it 
appears that, in the great art ol speech, the educated man 
at this day substantially uses the method of the savage, 
only expanded and improved in the working out of details. 
It is true that the languages of the Tasmanian and the 
Chinese, of the Greenlander and the Greek, differ variously 
in structure ; but this is a secondary difference, underlaid 
by a primary similarity in method, namely, the expression 
of ideas by articulate sounds l^abitually allotted to them. 
Now all languages are found on inspection to contain some 
articulate sounds of a directly natural and directly intelli- 
gible kind. These are sounds of interjectional or imitative 
character, which have their meaning not by inheritance from 
parents of adoption from foreigners, but by being taken up 
directly from the world of sound into the world of sense. 
Like pantomimic gestures, they are capable of conveying 
their meaning of themselves, without reference to the parti- 



cular language they are used in connexion with. From the 
observation of these, there have arisen speculations as to 
the origin of language, treating suqh expressive sounds as 
the fundamental constituents of language in general, and 
considering those of them which are still plainly recognizable 
as having remained more or less in their original state, long 
courses of adaptation and variation having produced from 
such the great mass of words in all languages, in which no 
connexion between idea and sound can any longer be 
certainly made out. Thus grew up doctrines of a ' natural ' 
origin of language, which, dating from classic times, were 
developed in the eighteenth century into a system by that 
powerful thinker, the President Charles de Brosses, and in 
our own time have been expanded and solidified by a school 
of philologers, among whom Mr. Hensleigh Wedgwood is 
the most prominent.^ These theories have no doubt been 
incautiously and fancifully worked. No wonder that 
students who found in nature real and direct sources of 
articulate speech, in interjectional sounds like ah ! ugh ! 
h*m! sh! and in imitative sounds like purr, whiz, tomtom, 
cuckoo, should have thought that the whole secret of lan- 
guage lay within their grasp, and that they had only to fit 
the keys thus found into one hold after another to open 
every lock. When a philosopher has a truth in his hands, 
he is apt to stretch it farther than it will bear. The magic 
umbrella must spread and spread till it becomes a tent wide 
enough to shelter the king s army. But it must be borne 
in mind that what criticism touches in these opinions is 
their exaggeration, not their reality. That interjections 
and imitative words are really taken up to some extent, be 
it small or large, into the very body and structure of lan- 
guage, no one denies. Such a denial, if anyone offered it, 
the advocates of the disputed theories might dispose of in 
the single phrase, that they would neither be pooh-poohed 

^ C. dc Brosses, ‘ Traits de la Formation Micanique des Langues,’ &c. 
(i8t ed. 1765) 5 Wedgwood, ‘ Origin of Language ’ (1866) ; ‘ Die. of English 
Etymology ’ (1859, 2nd cd. 1872) ; Farrar, ‘ Chapters on Language ’ (1865). 

i 62 


nor hooted down. It may be shown within the limits of the 
most strict and sober argument, that the theory of the 
origin of language in natural and directly expressive soimds 
does account for a considerable fraction of the existing 
copia verborum, while it raises a presumption that, could 
we trace the history of words more fully, it would account 
for far more. 

In here examining interjectional and imitative sounds 
with their derivative words, as well as certain other parts of 
language of a more or less cognate character, I purpose to 
bring forward as far as possible new evidence derived from 
the languages of savage and barbarous races. By so doing 
it becomes practicable to use a check which in great measure 
stops the main source of uncertainty and error in such 
enquiries, the habit of etymologizing words off-hand from 
expressive sounds, by the unaided and often flighty fancy of 
a philologer. By simply enlarging the survey of language, 
the province of the imagination is brought within narrower 
limits. If several languages, which cannot be classed as 
distinctly of the same family, unite in expressing some 
notion by a particular sound which may fairly claim to be 
interjectional or imitative, theif combined authority will go 
far to prove the claim a just one. For if it be objected that 
such words may have passed into the different languages 
from a common source, of which the trace is for the most 
part lost, this may be answered by the question, Why is there 
not a proportionate agreement between the languages in 
question throughout the far larger mass of words which 
cannot pretend to be direct sound-words ? If several 
languages have independently chosen like words to express 
like meanings, then we may reasonably suppose that we are 
not deluding ourselves in thinking such words highly appro- 
priate to their purpose. They are words which answered the 
conditions of original language, conforming as they do to 
the saying of Thomas Aquinas, that the names of things 
ought to agree with their natures, * nomina debent naturis 
rerum congruere.' Applied in such comparison, the Ian- 


guages of the lower races contribute evidence of excellent 
quality to the problem. It will at the same time and by 
the same proofs appear, that savages possess in a high 
degree the faculty of uttering their minds directly in 
emotional tones and interjections, of going straight to 
nature to furnish themselves with imitative sounds, includ- 
ing reproductions of their own direct emotional utterances, 
as means of expression of ideas, and of introducing into 
their formal language words so produced. They have 
clearly thus far the means and power of producing language. 
In so far as the theories under consideration account for 
the original formation of language, they countenance the 
view that this formation took place among mankind in a 
savage state, and even, for an5d:hing appearing to the con- 
trary, in a still lower stage of culture than has survived to 
our day.^ 

The first step in such investigation is to gain a clear idea 
of the various elements of which spoken language is made 
up. These may be enumerated as gesture, expression of 
feature, emotional tone, emphasis, force, speed, &c. of 
utterance, musical rhythm and intonation, and the forma- 
tion of the vowels and consonants which are the skeleton of 
articulate speech. 

In the common intercourse of men, speech is habitually 
accompanied by gesture, the hands, head, and body aiding 
and illustrating the spoken phrase. So far as we can judge, 
the visible gesture and the audible word have been thus 
used in combination since times of most remote antiquity 

^ Among the principal savage and barbaric languages here used for evi> 
dence, arc as follows : — Africa : Galla (Tutschek, Gr. and Die.), Yoruba 
(Bowen, Gr. and Die.), Zulu (Dohne, Die.). Polynesia, &c , : Maori 
(Kendall, Vocab., Williams, Die.), Tonga (Mariner, Vocab.), Fiji (Hazle- 
wood. Die.), Melanesia (Gabelentz, Melan. Spr.). Australia (Grey, Moore, 
Schiirmann, Oldfield, Vocabs.), N. America : Pima, Yakama, Clallam, 
Lummi, Chinuk, Mohawk, Micmac (Smithson. Contr. vol. iii.), Chinook 
Jargon (Gibbs, Die.), Quiche (Brasseur, Gr. and Die.). S. America : 
Tupi (Diaz, Die.), Carib (Roche^rt, Vocab.), Quichua (Markham, Gr. and 
Die.), Chilian (Febres, Die.), Brazilian tribes (Martius, * Glossaria lingu- 
arum Brasiliensium*). Many details in Pott, * Doppelung,* See, 


in the history of our race. It seems, however, that in the 
daily intercourse of the lower races, gesture holds a much 
more important plac^ than we are accustomed to see it fill, 
a position even encroaching on that which articulate speech 
holds among ourselves. Mr. Bonwick confirms by his 
experience Dr. Milligan’s account of the Tasmanians as 
using * signs to eke out the meaning of monosyllabic 
expressions, and to give force, precision, and character to 
vocal sounds.’ Captain Wilson remarks on the use of 
gesticulation in modifying words in the Chinook Jargon. 
There is confirmation to Spix and Martius’ description of 
low Brazilian tribes completing by signs the meaning of 
their scanty sentences, thus making the words ‘ wood-go ’ 
serve to say ' I will go into the wood,' by pointing the 
mouth like a snout in the direction meant. The Rev. 
J. L. Wilson, describing the Grebo language of West 
Africa, remarks that they have personal pronouns, but 
seldom use them in conversation, leaving it to gesture to 
determine whether a verb is to be taken in the first or 
second person ; thus the words ' ni ne ' will mean ‘ I do 
it,' or ' you do it,' according to the significant gestures of 
the sp)eaker.^ Beside such instances, it will hereafter be 
noticed that the lower races, in counting, habitually use 
gesture-language for a purpose to which higher races apply 
word-language. To this prominent condition of gesture as 
a means of expression among rude tribes, and to the 
development of pantomime in public show and private 
intercourse among such peoples as the Neapolitans of our 
own day, the most extreme contrast may be found in Eng- 
land, where, whether for good or ill, suggestive pantomime is 
now reduced to so small a compass in social talk, and even 
in public oratory. 

Changes of the bodily attitude, corresponding in their 
fine gradations with changes of the feelings, comprise condi- 

^ Bonwick, ‘ Daily Life of Tasmanians/ p. 140 •, Capt. Wilson, in ‘ Tr. 
Eth. Soc.,’ vol iv, p. 322, &c. •, J. L. Wilson, in ‘ Journ. Amer. Oriental 
Soc.,’ vol. i. 1849, No. 4; also Cranz., * Gronland,’ p. 279 (cited below, 
p. 186). For other accounts, see ‘ Early Hist, of Mankind,’ p. 77. 


lions of the surface of the body, postures of the limbs, and 
also especially those expressive attitudes of the face to 
which our attention is particularly directed when we notice 
one another. visible expression of the features is a 

symptom which displays the speaker's state of mind, his 
feelings of pleasure or disgust, of pride or humility, of faith 
or doubt, and so forth. Not that there is between the 
emotion and its bodily expression any originally intentional 
connexion. It is merely that a, i^rtinn of our 

physical maefchery shows symptoms which w e have learnt 
by experience to re fer to a m ental cause, as we judge by 
seeing a man sweat or li mp that he is llor7)r footsore. 
Ifliishing is caused by T!efTain Motions, and among Euro- 
peans it is a visible expression or symptom of them ; not 
so among South American Indians, whose blushes, as 
Mr. David Forbes points out, may be detected by the hand 
or a thermometer, but being concealed by the dark skin 
cannot serve as a visible sign of feeling. ‘ By turning these 
natural processes to account, men contrive to a certain 
extent to put on particular physical expressions, frowning 
or smiling for instance, in order to simulate the emotions 
which would naturally produce such expressions, or merely 
to convey the thought of such emotions to others. Now it 
is well known to every one that physical expression by 
feature, &c., forming a part of the universal gesture-lan- 
guage, thus serves as an important adjunct to spoken 
language. It is not so obvious, but on examination will 
prove to be true, that such expression by feature itself acts 
as a formative power in vocal language. Expression of 
countenance has an action beyond that of mere visible 
gesture. The bodily attitude brought on by a particular 
state of mind affects the position of the organs of speech, 
both the internal larynx, &c., and the external features 
v/hose change can be watched by the mere looker-on. Even 
though the expression of the speaker's face may not be seen 
by the hearer, the effect of the whole bodily attitude of 
^ Forbes, * Aymara Indians,’ in Journ. Eth. Soc. 1870, vol. ii. p. 208. 



which it forms part is not thereby done away with. For on 
the position thus taken by the various organs concerned in 
speech, depends what I have here called ' emotional tone,' 
whereby the voice carries direct expression of the speaker's 

The ascertaining of the precise physical mode in which 
certain attitudes of the internal and external face come to 
correspond to certain moods of mind, is a physiological 
problem as yet little understood ; but the fact that particular 
expressions of face are accompanied by corresponding and 
dependent expressions of emotional tone, only requires an 
observer or a looking-glass to prove it. The laugh made with 
a solemn, contemptuous, or sarcastic face, is quite different 
from that which comes from a joyous one ; the ah ! oh ! ho ! 
hey ! and so on, change their modulations to match the ex- 
pression of countenance. The effect of the emotional tone 
does not even require fitness in the meaning of the spoken 
words, for nonsense or an unknown tongue may be made to 
convey, when spoken with expressive intonation, the feelings 
which are displayed upon the speaker’s face. This expression 
may even be recognized in the dark by noticing the tone it 
gives forth, while the forced character given by the attempt 
to bring out a sound not matching even the outward play 
of the features can hardly be hidden by the most expert 
ventriloquist, and in such forcing, the sound perceptibly 
drags the face into the attitude that fits with it. The 
nature of communication by emotional tone seems to me 
to be somewhat on this wise. It does not appear that 
particular tones at all belong directly and of themselves to 
particular emotions, but that' their action depends on the 
vocal organs of the speaker and hearer. Other animals, 
having vocal organs different from man's, have accordingly, 
as we know, a different code of emotional tones. An 
alteration in man's vocal organs would bring a correspond- 
ing alteration in the effect of tone in expressing feeling ; 
the tone which to us expresses surprise or anger might 
come to express pleasure, and so forth. As it is, children 



leam by early experience that such and such a tone indicates 
such and such an emotion, and this they make out partly 
by finding themselves uttering such tones when their feel- 
ings have brought their faces to the appropriate attitudes, 
and partly by observing the expression of voice in others. 
At three or four years old they are to be seen in the act of 
acquiring this knowledge, turning round to look at the 
speaker's face and gesture to make sure of the meaning of 
the tone. But in later years this knowledge becomes so 
familiar that it is supposed to have been intuitive. Then, 
when men talk together, the hearer receives from each 
emotional tone an indication, a signal, of the speaker's 
attitude of body, and through this of his state of mind. 
These he can recognize, and even reproduce in himself, as 
the operator at one end of a telegraphic wire can follow, by 
noticing his needles, the action of his colleague at the 
other. In watching the process which thus enables one 
man to take a copy of another's emotions through their 
physical effects on his vocal tone, we may admire the perfec- 
tion with which a means so simple answers an end so com- 
plex, and apparently .so remote. 

By eliminating from speech all effects of gesture, of 
expression of face, and of emotional tone, we go far toward 
reducing it to that system of conventional articulate sounds 
which the grammarian and the comparative philologist 
habitually consider as language. These articulate sounds 
are capable of being roughly set down in signs standing 
for vowels and consonants, with the aid of accents and other 
significant marks ; and they may then again be read aloud 
from these written signs, by any one who has learnt to give 
its proper sound to each letter. 

What vowels are, is a matter which has been for some 
years well understood.^ They are compound musical tones 
such as, in the vox humana stop of the organ, are sounded 

^ See Helmholtz, * Tonempfindungen/ 2nd ed. p. 163 ; McKendrick, Text 
Book of Physiology, p. 68 1, &c., 720, &c. ; Max Miilicr, * Lectures,* 2nd 
series, p. 95, &c. 



by reeds (vibrating tongues) fitted to organ-pipes of par- 
ticular construction. The manner of formation of vowels 
by the voice is shortly this. There are situated in the larynx 
a pair of vibrating membranes called the vocal chords, 
which may be rudely imitated by stretching a piece of sheet 
india-rubter over the open end of a tube, so as to form two 
half-covers to it, ' like the parchment of a drum split across 
the middle ; ' when the tube is blown through, the india- 
rubber flaps will vibrate as the vocal chords do in the larynx, 
and give out a sound. In the human voice, the musical 
effect of the vibrating chords is increased by the cavity of 
the mouth, which acts as a resonator or sounding-box, and 
which also, by its shape at any moment, modifies the 
musical ‘ quality * or ' timbre ' of the sound produced. This, 
not the less felt because its effects are not registered in 
musical notation, depends on the harmonic overtones accom- 
panying the fundamental tone which alone musical notation 
takes account of. It makes the difference between the 
same note on two instruments, flute and piano for instance, 
while some instruments, as the violin, can give to one note 
a wide variation of quality. To such quality the formation 
of vowels is due. This is perfectly shown by the common 
Jew's harp, which when struck can be made to utter the 
vowels a, e, i, o, u, &c., by simply putting the mouth in the 
proper position for speaking these vowels. In this experi- 
ment the player's voice emits no sound, but the vibrating 
tongue of the Jew's harp placed in front of the mouth 
acts as a substitute for the vocal chords, and the vowel- 
soimds are produced by the various positions of the cavity 
of the mouth, modifying the quality of the note, by bringing 
out with different degrees of strength the series of harmonic 
tones of wliich it is composed. As to musical theory, 
emotional tone and vowel-tone are connected. In fact, an 
emotional tone may be defined as a vowel, whose particular 
musical quality is that produced by the human vocal 
organs, when adjusted to a particular state of feeling. 

Europeans, while using modulation of musical pitch as 



affecting the force of words in a sentence, know nothing of 
making it alter the dictionary-meaning of a word. But this 
device is known elsewhere, especially in South-East Asia, 
where rises and falls of tone, to some extent like those 
which serve us in conveying emphasis, question and answer, 
&c., actually give different signification. Thiis in Siamese, 
Aa=to seek, A(^=pestilence, Ai=five. The consequence of 
this elaborate system of tone-accentuation is the necessity 
of an accumulation of expletive particles, to supply the 
place of the oratorical or emphatic intonation, which being 
thus given over to the dictionary is lost for the grammar. 
Another consequence is, that the system of setting poetry to 
music becomes radically different from ours ; to sing a 
Siamese song to a European tune makes the meaning of the 
syllables alter according to their rise and fall in pitch, and 
turns their sense into the wildest nonsense.^ In West 
Africa, again, the same device appears : thus in Dahoman 
so=stick, s(}=horse, S()=thunder ; Yoruba, ii=with, 
bend.* For practical purposes, this linguistic music is 
hardly to be commended, but theoretically it is interest- 
ing, as showing that man does not servilely follow an 
intuitive or inherited scheme of language, but works out 
in various ways the resources of sound as a means of 

The theory of consonants is much more obscure than that 
of vowels. They are not musical vibrations as vowels are, 
but noises accompanying them. To the musician such 
noises as the rushing of the wind from the organ-pipe, the 
scraping of the violin, the sputtering of the flute, are simply 
troublesome as interfering with his musical tones, and he 
takes pains to diminish them as much as may be. But in 
the art of language noises of this kind, far from being 
avoided, are turned to immense account by being used as 

^ See Pallegoix, ' Gramm. Ling. Thai.’ ; Bastian, in * Monatsb. Berlin. 
Akad,’ June 6, 1867, and ‘ Roy. Asiatic Soc.,’ June, 1867. 

* Burton, in * Mem. Anthrop. Soc.,’ vol. i. p. 313 ; Bowen, ‘ Yoruba Gr. 
and Die.’ p. 5 ; see J. L. Wilson, * W. Afr.,’ p. 461. 


consonants, in combination with the musical vowels. As 
to the positions and movements of the vocal organs in pro- 
ducing consonants, an excellent account with anatomical 
diagrams is given in Professor Max Muller's second series 
of Lectures. For the present purpose of passing in review 
the various devices by which the language-maker has con- 
trived to make sound a means of expressing thought, per- 
haps no better illustration of their nature can be mentioned 
than Sir Charles Wheatstone's account of his speaking 
machine;' for one of the best ways of studying difficult 
phenomena is to see them artificially imitated. The in- 
strument in question pronounced Latin, French, and Italian 
words well : it could say, ‘ Je vous aime de tout mon 
coeur,' ‘ Leopoldus Secundus Romanorum Imperator,' and 
so forth, but it was not so successful with German. 
As to the vowels, they were of course simply sounded 
by suitable reeds and pipes. To affect them with con- 
sonants, contrivances were arranged to act like the human 
organs. Thus p was made by suddenly removing the 
operator's hand from the mouth of the figure, and h in 
the same way, except that the mouth was not quite 
covered, while an outlet like the nostrils was used in 
forming m; f and v were rendered by modifying the shape 
of the mouth by a hand ; air was made to rush through 
small tubes to produce the sibilants s and sh; and the 
liquids r and I were sounded by the action of tremulous 
reeds. As Wheatstone remarks, the most important use of 
such ingenious mechanical imitations of speech may be to 
fix and preserve an accurate register of the pronunciation of 
different languages. A perfectly arranged speaking 
machine would in fact represent for us that framework of 
language which consists of mere vowels and consonants, 
though without most of those expressive adjuncts which 
go to make up the conversation of speaking men. 

Of vowels and consonants capable of being employed in 
language, man is able to pronounce and distinguish an 

' C. W., in * London and Westminster Review,’ Oct. 1837. 



enormous variety. But this great stock of possible sounds 
is nowhere brought into use altogether. Each language or 
dialect of the world is found in practice to select a limited 
series of definite vowels and consonants, keeping with 
tolerable exactness to each, and thus choosing what we may 
call its phonetic alphabet. Neglecting such minor differ- 
ences as occur in the speech of individuals or small commu- 
nities, each dialect of the world may be said to have its own 
phonetic system, and these phonetic systems vary widely. 
Our vowels, for instance, differ much from those of French 
and Dutch. French knows nothing of either of the sounds 
which we write as th in thin and that, while the Castilian 
lisped c, the so-called ceceo, is a third consonant which we 
must again make shift to write as th, though it is quite 
distinct in sound from both our own. It is quite a usual 
thing for us to find foreign languages wanting letters even 
near in sound to some of ours, while possessing others un- 
familiar to ourselves. Among such cases are the Chinese 
difficulty in pronouncing r, and the want of s and / in 
Australian dialects. When foreigners tried to teach the 
Mohawks, who have ijo labials in their language, to pro- 
nounce words with p and b in them, they protested that it 
was too ridiculous to expect people to shut their mouths to 
speak ; and the Portuguese discoverers of Brazil, remarking 
that the natives had neither /, I, nor r in their language, 
neatly described them as a people with neither fe, ley, nor 
rey, neither faith, law, nor king. It may happen, too, that 
sounds only used by some nations as inter] ectional noises, 
unwritten and unwriteable, shall be turned to account by 
others in their articulate language. Something of this kind 
occurs with the noises called ' clicks.' Such sounds are 
familiar to us as interjections ; thus the lateral click made 
in the cheek (and usually in the left cheek) is continually 
used in driving horses, while varieties of the dental and 
palatal click made with the tongue against the teeth and the 
roof of the mouth, are common in the nursery as expressions 
of surprise, reproof, or satisfaction. Thus, too, the natives 


of Tierra del Fuego express * no ' by a peculiar cluck, as 
do also the Turks, who accompany it with the gesture of 
throwing back the head ; and it appears from the accounts 
of travellers that the clicks of surprise and admiration 
among the natives of Australia are much like those we hear 
at home. But though here these clicking noises are only 
used interjectionally, it is well known that South African 
races have taken such sounds up into their articulate speech 
and have made, as we may say, letters of them. The very 
name of Hottentots, applied to the Namaquas and other 
kindred tribes, appears to be not a native name (as Peter 
Kolb thought) but a rude imitative word coined by the 
Dutch to express the clicking ' hot en tot,* and the term 
Hottentotism has been thence adopted as a medical descrip- 
tion of one of the varieties of stammering. North-West 
America is another district of the world distinguished for 
the production of strange clucking, gurgling, and grunting 
letters, difficult or impossible to European voices. More- 
over, there are many sounds capable of being used in 
articulate speech, varieties of chirping, whistling, blowing, 
and sucking noises, of which some aye familiar to our owti 
use as calls to animals, or interjectional noises of contempt 
or surprise, but which no tribe is known to have brought 
into their alphabet. With all the vast phonetic variety of 
known languages, the limits of possible utterance are far 
from being reached. 

Up to a certain point we can understand the reasons 
which have guided the various tribes of mankind in the 
selection of their various alphabets ; ease of utterance to the 
speaker, combined with distinctness of effect to the hearer, 
have been undoubtedly among the principal of the selecting 
causes. We may fairly connect with the close uniformity of 
men's organs of speech all over the world, the general simi- 
larity which prevails in the phonetic systems of the most 
different languages, and which gives us the powder of roughly 
writing down so large a [>roportion of any one language by 
means of an alphabet intended for any other. But while 


we thus account by physical similarity for the existence of a 
kind of natural alphabet common to mankind, we must look 
to other causes to determine the selection of sounds used in 
different languages, and to account for those remarkable 
courses of change which go on in languages of a common 
stock, producing in Europe such variations of one original 
word as pater, father, vater, or in the islands of Polynesia 
offering us the numeral 5 under the strangely- varied forms 
of lima, rima, dima, nima, and hima. Changes of this sort 
have acted so widely and regularly, that since the enuncia- 
tion of Grimm's law their study has become a main part of 
philology. Though their causes are as yet so obscure, we 
may at least argue that such wide and definite operations 
cannot be due to chance or arbitrary fancy, but must be the 
result of laws as wide and definite as themselves. 

Let us now suppose a book to be written with a tolerably 
correct alphabet, for instance an ordinary Italian book, or 
an English one in some good system of phonetic letters. 
To suppose English written in the makeshift alphabet which 
we still keep in use, would be of course to complicate the 
matter in hand with ajiew and needless difficulty. If, then, 
the book be written in a sufficient alphabet, and handed to 
a reader, his office will by no means stop short at rendering 
back into articulate sounds the vowels and consonants before 
him, as though he were reading over proofs for the press . 
For the emotional tone just spoken of has dropped out in 
writing down the words in letters, and it will be the reader's 
duty to guess from the meaning of the words what this tone 
should be, and to put it in again accordingly. He has more- 
over to introduce emphasis, whether by accent or stress, on 
certain syllables or words, thereby altering their effect in 
the sentence ; if he says, for example, ‘ I never sold you 
that horse,' an emphasis on any one of these six words will 
alter the import of the whole phrase. Now, in emphatic 
pronunciation two distinct processes are to be remarked. 
The effect produced by changes in loudness and duration of 
words is directly imitative ; it is a mere gesture made with 


the voice, as we may notice by the way in which any one 
will speak of ' a short sharp answer,' ' a long weary year,' 
‘ a hud burst' ol music,' * a gentle gliding motion,' as com- 
pared with the like manner in which the gesture-language 
would adapt its force and speed to the kind of action to be 
represented. Written language can hardly convey but by the 
context the striking effects which our imitative faculty adds 
to spoken language, in our continual endeavour to make the 
sound of each word we speak a sort of echo to its sense. 
We see this in the difference between writing and telling the 
little story pf the man who was worried by being talked to 
about ' good books.' ' Do you mean,' he asked, speaking 
shortly with a face of strong firm approval, ' good books ? ' 

' or,' with a drawl and a fatuous-benevolent simper, *goo-d 
books ? ' Musical accent {accentus,^ musical tone) is turned 
to account as a means of emphasis, as when we give promin- 
ence to a particular syllable or word in a sentence by raising 
or depressing it a semi-tone or more. The reader has to 
divide his sentences with pauses, being guided in this to 
some extent by stops ; the rhythmic measure in which he 
will utter prose as well as poetry is npt without its effect ; 
and he has again to introduce music by speaking each 
sentence to a kind of imperfect melody. Professor Helm- 
holtz endeavours to write down in musical notes how a 
German with a bass voice, speaking on B flat, might say, 

‘ Ich bin spatzieren gegangen. — Bist du spatzieren gegang- 
en ? ' falling a fourth (to F) at the end of the affirmative 
sentence, and rising a fifth (to f) in asking the question, 
thus ranging through an octave.* When an English speaker 
tries to illustrate in his own language the rising and falling 
tones of Siamese vowels, he compares them with the English 
ones of question and answer, as in ' Will you go ? Yes.'* 
The rules of this imperfect musical intonation in ordinary 
conversation have been as yet but little studied. But as a 

^ ‘ Accentus cst etiam in dicendo cantus obscurior.’ — Cic. de Orat. 

* Helmholtz, p. 364 . 

* Caswell, in Bastian, * Berlin. Akad.' l.c. 



means of giving solemnity and pathos to language, it has 
been more fully developed and even systematized imder 
exact rules of melody, and we thus have on t\ie one hand 
ecclesiastical intoning and the less conventional' half-singing 
so often to be heard in religious meetings, and on the other 
the ancient and modem theatrical recitative. By such 
intermediate stages we may cross the wide interval from 
spoken prose, with the musical pitch of its vowels so care- 
lessly kept, and so obscured by consonants as to be difficult 
even to determine, to full song, in which the consonants 
are as much as possible suppressed, that they may not 
interfere with the precise and expressive music of the 

Proceeding now to survey such parts of the vocabulary of 
mankind as appear to have an intelligible origin in the direct 
expression of sense by sound, let us first examine Interjec- 
tions. When Home Tooke spoke, in words often repeated 
since, of * the bmtish inarticulate Interjection,' he certainly 
meant to express his contempt for a mode of expression 
which lay outside his own too narrow view of language. 
But the epithets ar^ in themselves justifiable enough. 
Interjections are undoubtedly to a certain extent ' brutish ' 
in their analogy to the cries of animals ; and the fact gives 
them an especial interest to modern observers, who are thus 
enabled to trace phenomena belonging to the mental state 
of the lower animals up into the midst of the most highly 
cultivated human language. It is also true that they are 
* inarticulate,' so far at least that the systems of consonants 
and vowels recognized by grammarians break down more 
hopelessly than elsewhere in the attempt to write down 
interjections. Alphabetic writing is far too incomplete and 
clumsy an instrument to render their peculiar and variously- 
modulated sounds, for which a few conventionally-written 
words do duty poorly enough. In reading aloud, and some- 
times even in the talk of those who have learnt rather from 
books than from the living world, we may hear these awk- 
ward imitations, ahem! heini tush! tut! pshaw! now carrying 


the unquestioned authority of words printed in a book, and 
reproduced letter for letter with a most amusing accuracy. 
But when Home Tooke fastens upon an unfortunate Italian 
grammarian and describes him as ‘The industrious and 
exact Cinonio, who does not appear ever to have had a 
single glimpse of reason,* it is not easy to see what the 
pioneer of English philology could find to object to in 
Cinonio's obviously true assertion, that a single interjection , 
ah! or ahi! is capable of expressing more than twenty 
different emotions or intentions, such as pain, entreaty, 
threatening, sighing, disdain, according to the tone in which 
it is uttered.' The fact that interjections do thus utter 
feelings is quite beyond dispute, and the philologist*s 
concern with them is on the one hand to study their action 
in expressing emotion, and on the other to trace their 
passage into more fully-formed words, such as have their 
place in connected syntax and form part of logical proposi- 

In the first place, however, it is necessary to separate 
from proper interjections the many sense-words which, often 
kept up in a mutilated or old-fashion^ guise, come so close 
to them both in appearance and in use. Among classic 
examples are <<>cp€ / Scvre / age ! macte ! Such a word is hail ! 
which as the Gothic Bible shows, was originally an adjec- 
tive, * whole, hale, prosperous,* used vocatively, just as the 
Italians cry bravo ! brava ! bravi I brave I When the 
African negro cries out in fear or wonder mama ! mama 
he might be thought to be uttering a real interjection, ‘ a 
word used to express some passion or emotion of the mind,* 
as Lindley Murray has it, but in fact he is simply calling, 
grown-up baby as he is, for his mother ; and the very same 

^ Horne Tooke, ‘Diversions of Parley,’ 2nd ed. London, 1798, pt. i. 
pp. 60-3. 

* R. F. Burton, ‘ Lake Regions of Central Africa,* vol. ii. p. 333 ; Living- 
stone, ‘ Missionary Tr. in S. Africa,* p. 298 ; ‘ Gr, of Mpongwe lang,* A. 
B. C. F. Missions, Rev. J. L. Wilson, p. 27. See Callaway, ‘Zulu Talcs,’ 
vol. i. p. 59. 



thing has been noticed among Indians of Upper California, 
who as an expression of pain cry, and ! that is ' mother. 
Other exclamations consist of a pure interjection comibined 
with a pronoun, as oUlol 1 oim^ ! ah me ! or with an adjective, 
as alas ! hilas ! (ah weary !) With what care interjections 
should be sifted, to avoid the risk of treating as original 
elementary sounds of language what are really nothing but 
sense- words, we may judge from the way in which the 
common English exclamation well! well! approaches the 
genuine interjectional sound in the Coptic expression * to 
make ouelouele* which signifies to wail, Latin ululate. 
Still better, we may find a learned traveller in the i8th 
century quite seriously remarking, apropos of the old Greek 
battle-shout, dkaXd 1 aAaAa ! that the Turks to this day 
call out AUah ! Allah ! Allah ! upon the like occasion.* 

The calls to animals customary in different countries* 
are to a great extent interjectional in their use, but to 
attempt to explain them as a whole is to step upon as 
slippery ground as lies within the range of philology. 
Sometimes they may be in fact pure interjections, like the 
scha schti ! mentioned as an old German cry to scare birds, 
as we should say sh sh /, or the ad! with which the Indians 
of Brazil call their dogs. Or they may be set down as 
simple imitations of the animal's own cries, as the clucking 
to call fowls in our own farm-yards, or the Austrian calls 
of pi pi ! or tiet tiet ! to chickens, or the Swabian kauter 
kaut ! to turkeys, or the shepherd's baaing to call sheep 
in India. In other cases, however, they may be sense- 
words more or less broken down, as when the creature is 
spoken to by a sound which seems merely taken from 
its own common name. If an English countryman meets 

^ Arroyo de la Cuesta, * Gr. of Mutsun Lang.’ p. 39, in Smithsonian Contr., 
vol. iii. ; Neapolitan mamma mia ! exclamation of wonder, &c., Liebrecht 
in Getting. Gel. Anz 1872, p. 1287. 

* Shaw, * Travels in Barbary,’ in Pinkerton, vol. xv. p. 669. 

* Some of the examples here cited, will be found in Grimm, * Deutsche 
Gr,’ vol. iii. p. 308 ; Pott, ‘ Doppelung.’ p. 27 j Wedgwood, ‘ Origin of Lan- 


a stray sheep-dog, he will simply call to him ship / ship ! 
So sch&p schdp / is an Austrian call to sheep, and koss 
kuhd koss / to cows. In German districts gus gus ! gusch 
gusch I gos gos I are set down as calls to geese ; and when 
we notice that the Bohemian peasant calls husy ! to them, 
we remember that the name for goose in his language is 
husa, a word familiar to English ears in the name of John 
Huss. The Bohemian, again, will call to his dog ps ps ! 
but then pes means ‘dog.’ Other sense-words addressed 
to animals break down by long repetition into mutilated 
forms. When we are told that the to to ! with which a 
Portuguese calls a dog is short for toma toma ! {i.e., ' take 
take ! ') which tells him to come and take his food, we 
admit the explanation as plausible ; and the coop coop / 
which a cockney might so easily mistake for a pure inter- 
jection, is only ‘ Come up I come up ! ’ 

* Come uppe, Whitcfoot, come uppe, Lightfoot, 

Come uppe, Jetty, rise and follow, 

Jetty, to the milking shed/ 

But I cannot offer a plausible guess at the origin of such 
calls as hilf huf ! to horses, hUhl huhl ! to geese, deckel 
deckel I to sheep. It is fortunate for etymologists that such 
trivial little words have not an importance proportioned to 
the difficulty of clearing up their origin. The word puss / 
raises an interesting philological problem. An English 
child calling puss puss ! is very likely keeping up the trace 
of the old Keltic name for the cat, Irish pus, Erse pusag, 
Gaelic puis. Similar calls are^ known elsewhere in Europe 
(as in Saxony, pUs pUs !), and there is some reason to think 
that the cat, which came to us from the East, brought with 
it one of its names, which is still current there, Tamil pusei ! 
Afghan pusha, Persian pushak, &c. Mr. Wedgwood finds 
an origin for the call in an imitation of the cat's spitting, 
and remarks that the Servians cry pis / to drive a cat away, 
while the Alhg.nians use a similar soimd to call it. The 
way in which the cry of puss ! has furnished a name for 



the cat itself, comes out curiously in countries where the 
animal has been lately introduced by Englishmen. Thus 
boosi is the recognized word for cat in the Tonga Islands, 
no doubt from Captain Cook’s time. Among Indian tribes 
of North-West America, pwsh, pish-pish, appear in native 
languages with the meaning of cat ; and not only is the 
European cat called a puss puss in the Chinook Jargon, but 
in the same curious dialect the word is applied to a 
native beast, the cougar, now called ‘ hyas puss-puss’ i.e., 
' great cat.'^ 

The derivation of names of animals in this manner from 
calls to them, may perhaps not have been unfrequent. It 
appears that huss ! is a cry used in Switzerland to set dogs 
on to fight, as s — s / might be in England, and that the 
Swiss call a dog huss or hauss, possibly from this. We 
know the cry of dill ! diUy ! as a. recognized call to ducks in 
England, and it is difficult to think it a corruption of any 
English word or phrase, for the Bohemians also call dlidli ! 
to their ducks. Now, though dill or dilly may not be found 
in our dictionaries 21s the name for a duck, yet the way in 
which Hood can use it as such in one of his best-known 
comic poems, shows perfectly the easy and natural step by 
which such transitions can be made : — 

‘ For Death among the water-lilies, 

Cried “ Due ad me ” to all her dillies/ 

In just the same way, because gee ! is a usual call of the 
English waggoner to his horses, the word gee-gee has be- 
come a familiar nursery noun meaning a horse. And 
neither in such nursey words, nor in words coined in jest. 

^ See Pictet, ‘ Origines Indo-Europ.’ part i. p. 382 j Caldwell, ‘ Gr. of Dra- 
vidian Langs.’ p. 465 ; Wedgwood, Die. s.v. ‘ puss,’ See. j Mariner, * Tonga 
Is. (Vocab.)’ } Gibbs, ‘ Die. of Chinook Jargon,’ Smithsonian Coll. No. 161 ; 
Pandosy, * Gr. and Die. of Yakama,’ Smithson. Contr. vol. hi. ; compare 
J. L. Wilson, ‘ Mpongwe Gr.’ p. 57. The Hindu child’s call to the cat mun 
mun / may be from Hindust. mdno= cat. It. micio, Fr. mi/^, minon, Ger. 
mieze, &c.= ‘ cat,’ and Sp. miz / Ger. minz / &c.= ‘ puss ! ’ are from imita- 
tions of a mew. 


is the evidence bearing on the origin of language to be set 
aside as worthless ; for it may be taken as a maxim of 
ethnology, that what is done among civilized men in jest, 
or among civilized children in the nursery, is apt to find its 
analogue in the serious mental effort of savage, and there- 
fore of primaeval tribes. 

Drivers* calls to their beasts, such as this gee ! gee-ho ! 
to urge on horses, and weh! woh! to stop them, form part 
of the vernacular of particular districts. The geho ! perhaps 
came to England in the Norman-French, for it is known 
in France, and appears in the Italian dictionary as gio ! 
The traveller who has been hearing the drivers in the 
Grisons stop their horses with a long hr-r-r I may cross a 
pass and hear on the other side a hii-U-u I instead. The 
ploughman*s calls to turn the leaders of the team to right 
and left have passed into proverb. In France they say of 
a stupid clown ' II n*entend ni a dia ! ni a hurhaut ! * and 
the corresponding Platt-Deutsch phrase is * He weet nich 
hutt ! noch hoh ! * So there is a regular language to 
camels, as Captain Burton remarks on his journey to 
Mekka : ikh ikh I makes them kn^el, ydhh ydhh ! urges 
them on, hai hai ! induces cadtion, and so forth. In the 
formation of these quaint expressions, two causes have 
been at work. The sounds seem sometimes thoroughly 
interjectional, as the Arab hai ! of caution, or the French 
hue ! North German jo ! Whatever their origin, they may 
be made to carry their sense by imitative tones expressive 
to the ear of both horse and man, as any one will say who 
hears the contrast between the short and sharp high- 
pitched hup I which tells the Swiss horse to go faster, and 
the long-drawn hu-ii-u-U ! which brings him to a stand. 
Also, the way in which common sense-words are taken 
up into calls like gee-up ! woh-back shows that we may 
expect to find various old broken fragments of formal 
language in the list, and such on inspection we find accord- 
ingly. The following lines are quoted by Halliwell from 
the Micro-Cynicon (1599) • — 



' A bate borne issue of a baser syer, 

Bred in a cottage, wandering in the myer. 

With nailed shooes and whipstaffe in his hand, 

Who with a bey and ree the beasts command.* ‘ 

This ree ! is equivalent to ‘ right ' (riddle-me-ree=riddle 
me right), and tells the leader of the team to bear to the 
right hand. The hey ! may correspond with heit ! or 
camether ! which call him to bear * hither/ i,e,, to the left. 
In Germany har ! hat ! har-Uh ! are likewise the same as 
' her/ * hither, to the left.' So swude ! schwude f zwuder ! 
* to the left,' are of course simply * zuwider,' ‘ on the 
contrary way.' Pairs of calls for ‘ right ' and * left ' in 
German-speaking countries are hot ! — har ! and hoti / — 
wist I This wist ! is an interesting example of the keeping 
up of ancient words in such popular tradition. It is 
evidently a mutilated form of an old German word for the 
left hand, winistrd, Anglo-Saxon winstre^ a name long 
since forgotten by modern High German, as by our own 
modem English. ^ 

As quaint a mixture of words and interjectional cries as I 
have met with, is in the great French Encyclopaedia, * which 
gives a minute description of the hunter's craft, and pre- 
scribes exactly what is to be cried to the hounds under all 
possible contingencies of the chase. If the creatures 
understood grammar and syntax, the language could not be 
more accurately arranged for their ears. Sometimes we 
have what seem pure interjectional cries. Thus, to 
encourage the hounds to work, the huntsman is to call to 
them hd halle halle halle ! while to bring them up before 
they are uncoupled it is prescribed that he shall call hau 
hau ! or hau tahaut ! and when they are uncoupled he is to 
change his cry to hau la y la la y la tayau 1 a call which 

^ For lists of drivers’ words, see Grimm, l.c. ; Pott, ‘ Zahlmethodc,* 
p. 261 ; Halliwell, * Die. of Archaic and Provincial English,’ s.v. * ree ; ’ 
Brand, vol. ii. p. 15 ; Pictet, part ii. p. 489. 

* ‘ Encyclop^die, ou Dictionnaire Raisonn^ des Sciences, &c.* Recueil dc 
Planches, Paris, 1763, art. ‘ Chasses.’ The traditional cries are still more 
or less in use. See * A Week in a French Country-house.’ 

I. — N 

i 82 


suggests the Norman original of the English tally-ho ! 
With cries of this kind plain French words are intermixed, 
M beUemeni Id ila, Id ila, hau valet ! — hau V ami, tau iau 
apHs ^pr^s, d route d route ! and so on. And sometimes 
words have broken down into calls whose sense is not 
quite gone, like the *vois le ci' and the ‘vois le ce Test' 
which are still to be distinguished in the shout which is to 
tell the hunters that the stag they have been chasing has 
made a return, vauleci revari vaulecelez ! But the drollest 
thing in the treatise is the grave set of English words 
(in very Gallic shape) with which English dogs are to be 
spoken to, because, as the author says, ‘ there are many 
English hounds in France, and it is difficult to get them 
to work when you speak to them in an unknown tongue, 
that is, in other terms than they have beeil trained to.' 
Therefore, to call them, the huntsman is to cry here do-do 
ho ho ! to get them back to the right track he is to say 
houpe boy, hoiipe boy ! when there are several on ahead of 
the rest of the pack, he is to ride up to them and cry saf 
me boy! saf me boy! and lastly, if they are obstinate and 
will not stop, he is to make them go back with a shout of 
cobat, cobat ! 

How far the lower animals may attach any inherent 
meaning to interjectional sounds is a question not easy to 
answ^er. But it is plain that in most of the cases mentioned 
here they only understand them as recognized signals 
which have a meaning by regular association, as when they 
remember that they are fed with one noise and driven away 
with another, and they also^ pay attention to the gestures 
which accompany the cries. Thus the well-known Spanish 
way of calling the cat is miz miz ! while zape zape ! is used 
to drive it away ; and the writer of an old dictionary 
maintains that there can be no real difference between these 
words except by custom, for, he declares, he has heard that 
in a certain monastery where they kept very handsome 
cats, the brother in charge of the refectory hit upon the 
device of calling zape zape ! to them when he gave them 



their food, and then he drove them away with a stick, 
crying angrily miz miz ; and this of course prevented any 
stranger from calling and stealing them, for only he and 
the cats knew the secret To philologists, the manner 
in which such calls to animals become customary in par- 
ticular districts illustrates the concensus by which the use 
of words is settled. Each case of the kind indicates that 
a word has prevailed by selection among a certain society 
of men, and the main reasons of words holding their 
ground within particular limits, though it is so difficult 
to assign them exactly in each case, are probably inherent 
fitness in the first place, and traditional inheritance in 
the second. 

When the ground has been cleared of obscure or muti- 
lated sense- words, there remains behind a residue of real 
sound-words, or pure interjections. It has long and 
reasonably been considered that the place in history of 
these expressions is a very primitive one. Thus De 
Brosses describes them as necessary and natural words, 
common to all mankind, and produced by the combination 
of man's conformatiorf with the interior affections of his 
mind. One of the best means of judging the relation 
between interjectional utterances and the feelings they 
express, is to compare the voices of the lower animals with 
our own. To a considerable extent there is a similarity. 
As their bodily and mental structure has an analogy with 
our own, so they express their minds by sounds which have 
to our ears a certain fitness for what they appear to mean. 
It is so with the bark, the howl, and the whine of the dog, 
the hissing of geese, the purring of cats, the crowing and 
clucking of cocks and hens. But in other cases, as with 
the hooting of owls and the shrieks of parrots and many 
other birds, we cannot suppose that these sounds are 
intended to utter anything like the melancholy or pain 
which such cries from a human being would be taken to 
convey. There are many animals that never utter any cry 

^ Aldrete, ‘ Lengua Castellana,’ Madrid, 1673, s-vv. harre, exe. 


but what, according to our notions of the meaning of 
sounds, would express rage or discomfort ; how far are the 
roars and howls of wild beasts to be thus interpreted ? We 
might as well imagine the tuning violin to be in pain, or 
the moaning wind to express sorrow. The connexion 
between interjection and emotion depending on the physical 
structure of the animal which utters or hears the sound, it 
follows that the general similarity of interjectional utter- 
ance among all the varieties of the human race is an 
important manifestation of their close physical and intel- 
lectual unity. 

Interjectional sounds uttered by man for the expression 
of his own feelings serve also as signs indicating these 
feelings to another. A long list of such interjections, 
common to races speaking the most widely various lan- 
guages, might be set down in a rough way as representing 
the sighs, groans, moans, cries, shrieks, and growls by 
which man gives utterance to various of his feelings. Such 
for instance, are some of tjie many sounds for which ah ! 
oh! ahi! aie! are the inexpressive written representatives ; 
such is the sigh which is written down in the Wolof lan- 
guage of Africa as hhihhc I in English as heigho ! in (xreek 
and Latin as c c / € L' heu ! eheti ! Thus the open-mouthed 
wah wah ! of astonishment, so common in the East, 
reappears in America in the hwah ! hwah-wa I of the 
Chinook Jargon ; and the kind of groan which is repre- 
sented in European languages by weh I ouais ! oval ! vac ! is 
given in Coptic by ouae ! in Galla by wayo ! in the Ossetic 
of the Caucasus by voy ! among the Indians of British 
Columbia by wot ! Where the interjections taken down in 
the vocabularies of other languages differ from those 
recognized in our own, we at any rate appreciate them 
and see how they carry their meaning. Thus with the 
Malagasy u-u ! of pleasure, the North- American Indian's 
often-described guttural ugh! the kwish ! of contempt 
in the Chinook Jargon, the Tunguz yo yo ! of pain, the 
Irish wb wb ! of distress, the native Brazilian’s teh teh ! 



of wonder and reverence, the hai-yah ! so well known in 
the Pigeon-English of the Chinese ports, and even, to 
take an extreme case, the interjections of surprise among 
the Algonquin Indians, where men say tiau ! and women 
nyau ! It is much the same with expressions which are 
not uttered for the speaker's satisfaction, but are calls 
addressed to another. Thus the Siamese call of he ! the 
Hebrew he ! ha 1 for * lo ! behold ! ’ the hdi ! of the 
Clallam Indians for * stop ! ' the Lummi hdi ! for * hold, 
enough ! ' — these and others like them belong just as 
much to English. Another class of interjections are such 
as any one conversant with the gesture-signs of savages 
and deaf-mutes would recognize as being themselves gesture 
signs, made with vocal sound, in short, voice-gestures. The 
sound m'm, m*n, made with the lips closed, is the obvious 
expression of the man who tries to speak, but cannot. 
Even the deaf-and-dumb child, though he cannot hear the 
sound of his own voice, makes this noise to show that he 
is dumb, that he is mu mu, as the Vei negroes of West 
Africa would say. To the speaking man, the sound 
which we write as, mum I says plainly enough ' hold 
your tongue ! ' ‘ munis the word ! ' and in accordance 
with this meaning has served to form various imitative 
words, of which a type is Tahitian mamu, to be silent. 
Often made with a slight effort which aspirates it, and 
with more or less continuance, this sound becomes what 
may be indicated as 'm, 'n. Km, Kn, &c., interjections 
which are conventionally written down as words, hem ! 
ahem ! hein ! Their primary sense seems in any case that 
of hesitation to speak, of ‘ humming and hawing,' but this 
serves with a varied intonation to express such hesitation 
or refraining from articulate words as belongs either to 
surprise, doubt or enquiry, approbation or contempt. In 
the vocabulary of the Yorubas of West Africa, the nasal 
interjection huh is rendered, just as it might be in English, 
as ' fudge ! ' Rochefort describes the Caribs listening in 
reverent silence to their chief's discourse, and testifying 



their approval with a hun-hun ! just as in his time (17th 
century) an English congregation would have saluted a 
popular preacher.^ The gesture of blowing, again, is a 
familiar expression of contempt and disgust, and when 
vocalized gives the labial interjections which are written 
pah ! bah ! pugh ! pooh ! in Welsh pw ! in Low Latin 
puppup ! and set down by travellers among the savages in 
Australia as pooh ! These interjections correspond with 
the mass of imitative words which express blowing, such as 
Malay puput, to blow. The labial gestures of blowing pass 
into those of spitting^ of which one kind gives the dental 
interjection /’ V i I which is written in English or Dutch 
tut tut ! and that this is no mere fancy, a number of imita- 
tive verbs of various countries will serve to show, Tahitian 
tutua, to spit, being a typical instance. 

The place of interjectional utterance in savage inter- 
course is well shown in Cranz's description. The Green- 
landers, he says, especially the women, accompany many 
words with mien and glances, and he who does not well 
apprehend this may easily miss the sense. Thus when 
they affirm anything with pleasure they suck down air by 
the throat with a certain sound, and' when they deny any- 
thing with contempt or horror, they turn up the nose and 
give a slight sound through it. And when they are out of 
humour, one must understand more from their gestures 
than their words.* Interjection and gesture combine to 
form a tolerable practical means of intercourse, as where 
the communication between French and English troops in 
the Crimea is described as ‘ consisting largely of such 

^ ‘ There prevailed in those days an indecent custom ; when the preacher 
touched any favourite topick in a manner that delighted his audience, their 
approbation was expressed by a loud hum, continued in proportion to their 
zeal or pleasure. When Burnet preached, part of his congregation hummed 
so loudly and so long, that he sat down to enjoy it, and rubbed his face with 
his handkerchief. When Sprat preached, he likewise was honoured with 
the like animating hum, but he stretched out his hand to the congregation, 
and cried, Peace, peace ; I pray you, peace.'* ’ Johnson, * Life of Sprat.* 
* CranZ| ‘ Gronland,’ p. 279, 



interjectional utterances, reiterated with expressive em- 
phasis and considerable gesticulation.'^ This description 
well brings before us in actual life a system of effective 
human intercourse, in which there has not yet arisen the 
use of those articulate sounds carrying their meaning by 
tradition, which are the inherited words of the dictionary. 

When, however, we look closely into these inherited 
sense-words themselves, we find that interjectional sounds 
have actually had more or less share in their formation. 
Not stopping short at the function ascribed to them by 
grammarians, of standing here and there outside a logical 
sentence, the interjections have also served as radical 
sounds out of which verbs, substantives, and other parts of 
speech have been shaped. In tracing the progress of inter- 
jections upward into fully developed language, we begin 
with sounds merely expressing the speaker's actual feelings. 
When, however, expressive sounds like ah ! ugh I pooh ! are 
uttered not to exhibit the speaker's actual feelings at the 
moment, but only in order to suggest to another the 
thought of admiration or disgust, then such interjections 
have little or nothing to distinguish them from fully formed 
words. The next step is to trace the taking up of such 
sounds into the regular forms of ordinary grammar. 
Familiar instances of such formations may be found among 
ourselves in nursery language, where to woh is found in use 
with the meaning of to stop, or in that real though hardly 
acknowledged part of the English language to which belong 
such verbs as to boo-hoo. Among the most obvious of 
such words are those which denote the actual utterance of 
an interjection, or pass thence into some closely allied 
meaning. Thus the Fijian women's cry of lamentation 
oile ! becomes the verb oile ‘ to bewail,' oile-taka * to 
lament for ' (the men cry ule !) ; now this is in perfect 
analogy with such words as ululate, to waiL With different 
grammatical terminations, another sound produces the 
Zulu verb gigiteka and its English equivalent to giggle. 

^ D. Wilson, ‘ Prehistoric Man,' p. 65. 



The Galla iya, * to cry, scream, give the battle-cry ' has 
its analogues in Greek to, n}, ‘ a cry,' /r/io? ‘ wailing, 
mournful,' &c. Good cases may be taken from a curious 
modem dialect with a strong propensity to the use of 
obvious sound-words, the Chinook Jargon of North-West 
America. Here we find adopted from an Indian dialect 
the verb to kishrkish, that is, ' to drive cattle or horses ' ; 
humm stands for the word ' stink,' verb or noun ; and the 
laugh, heehee, becomes a recognized term meaning fun or 
amusement, as in mamook heehee, * to amuse ' {i.e,, * to 
make heehee*) and heehee house, * a tavern.' In Hawaii, 
aa is * to insult ; ' in the Tonga Islands, ui ! is at once 
the exclamation ' fie ! ' and the verb ‘ to cry out against.' 
In New Zealand, hi ! is an interjection denoting surprise at 
a mistake, as a noun or verb meaning * error, mistake, 
to err, to go astray.' In the Quiche language of Guate- 
mala, the verbs ay, oy, boy, express the idea of ‘ to call ' 
in different ways. In the Carajas language of Brazil, we 
may guess an interjectional origin in the adjective eu 
‘ sorrowful,' and can scarcely fail to see a derivation from 
expressive sound in the verb jiai-hai * to run away ' (the 
word aie-aie, used to mean ' an omnibus ' in modem 
French slang, is said to be a comic allusion to the cries 
of the passengers whose toes are trodden on). The Camacan 
Indians, when they wish to express the notion of ‘ much ' 
or ‘ many,' hold out their fingers and say hi. As this is 
an ordinary savage gesture expressing multitude, it seems 
likely that the hi is a mere interjection, requiring the 
visible sign to convey the full meaning.^ In the Quichua 
language of Peru, alalau ! is an interjection of complaint at 
cold, whence the verb alcdaufiini, *to complain of the 
cold.' At the end of each strophe of the Pemvian hymns 
to the Sun was sung the triumphant exclamation haylli! 
and with this sound are connected the verbs hayUini 
‘ to sing,' hayUicuni, ' to celebrate a victory.' The Zulu 

^ Compare, in the same district, Came ii, Cotox6 biebie, eubidhia^ multus, 
-a, -um. 



halala ! of exultation, which becomes also a verb ' to shout 
for joy/ has its analogues in the Tibetan alala ! of joy, 
and the Greek aXaXa, which is used as a noun meaning the 
battle-cry and even the onset itself, dA.aA.afa), * to raise the 
war-cry,' as well as Hebrew hillel, ' to sing praise,' whence 
hallelujah ! a word which the believers in the theory that 
the Red Indians were the Lost Tribes naturally recognized 
in the native medicine-man's chant of hi-le-li-lah ! The Zulu 
makes his panting ha ! do duty as an expression of heat, 
when he says that the hot weather 'says ha ha his way of 
pitching a song by 3. ha ! ha ! is apparently represented in 
the verb haya, * to lead a song,' hayo * a starting song, a 
fee given to the singing-leader for the haya ' ; and his 
interjectional expression bd bd ! ' as when one smacks his 
lips from a bitter taste,' becomes a verb-root meaning ' to 
be bitter or sharp to the taste, to prick, to smart.' The 
Galla language gives some good examples of interjections 
passing into words, as where the verbs birr-djeda (to say 
brri) and birefada (to make brr!) have the meaning ‘to be 
afraid.' Thus o ! being the usual answer to a call, and 
also a cry to drive «attle, there are formed from it by 
the addition of verbal terminations, the verbs oada, ‘ to 
answer,' and o/a, ‘ to drive.' 

If the magnific and honorific 0 of Japanese grammar can 
be assigned to an interjectional origin, its capabilities in 
modifying signification become instructive.^ It is used 
before substantives as a prefix of honour ; couni, ‘ country,' 
thus becoming ocouni. When a man is talking to his 
superiors, he puts 0 before the names of all objects belonging 
to them, while these superiors drop the 0 in speaking of 
anything of their own, or an inferior's; among the higher 

^J. H. Donker Curtius, ^Essai de Grammaire Japonaise,* p. 34, &c. 
199. In former editions of the present work, the directly interjectional 
character of the 0 is held in an unqualified manner. Reference to the 
grammars of Prof. B. H. Chamberlain and others, where this particle 
(on, o) is connected with other forms implying a common root, leaves the 
argument to depend wholly or partly on the supposition of 3n interjec- 
tional source for this root. [Note to 3rd ed.] 


classes, persons of equal rank put o before the names of 
each other's things, but not before their own; it is polite 
to say 0 before the names of all women, and well-bred 
children are distinguished from little peasants by the 
way in which they are careful to put it even before the 
nursery names of father and mother, o toto, o caca, which 
correspond to the papa and mama of Europe. A dis- 
tinction is made in written language between o, which is put 
to anything royal, and oo which means great, as may be 
instanced in the use of the word mets'ki or ‘ spy ' (literally 
‘ eye-fixer ') ; o mets'M is a princely or imperial spy, while 
00 mets'ki is the spy in chief. This interjectional adjective 
00, great, is usually prefixed to the name of the capital 
city, which it is customary to call oo Yedo in speaking to 
one of its inhabitants, or when officials talk of it among 
themselves. And lastly, the o of honour is prefixed to 
verbs in all their forms of conjugation, and it is polite 
to say ominahai matse, * please to see,' instead of the 
mere plebeian minahai matse. Now an English child of 
six years old would at once understand these formations 
if taken as interjectional; and if we do not incorporate 
in our grammar +he o ! of admiration and reverential 
embarrassment, it is because we have not chosen 
to take advantage of this rudimentary means of ex- 
pression. Another exclamation, the cry of to ! has taken 
a place in etymology. When added by the German to 
his cry of ‘ Fire ! ' ' Murder ! ' Feuerio ! Mordio ! it 
remains indeed as mere an interjection as the o ! in our 
street cries of * Pease-o ! * * Dust-o ! ' or the d ! in old 
German wafend ! * to arms ! ' hilfd ! ' help ! ' But the 
Iroquois of North America makes a fuller use of his 
materials, and carries his io ! of admiration into the very 
formation of compound words, adding it to a noun to say 
that it is beautiful or good ; thus, in Mohawk, garonta 
means a tree, garontio a beautiful tree ; in like manner, 
Ohio means ' river-beautiful : ' and Ontario, * hill-rock- 
beautiful,' is derived in the same way. When, in the old 


times of the French occupation of Canada, there was sent 
over a Governor-General of New France, Monsieur de 
Montmagny, the Iroquois rendered his name from their 
word ononte, * mountain,' translating him into Onontio, or 
' Great Mountain,' and thus it came to pass that the name 
of Onontio was handed down long after, like that of Caesar, 
as the title of each succeeding governor, while for the King 
of France was reserved the yet higher style of * the great 
Onontio.' ^ 

The quest of interjectional derivations for sense-words is 
apt to lead the etymologist into very rash speculations. 
One of his best safeguards is to test forms supposed to be 
interjectional, by ascertaining whether anything similar has 
come into use in decidedly distinct languages. For instance, 
among the familiar sounds which fall on the traveller's ear 
in Spain is the muleteer's cry to his beasts, arre I arre ! 
From this interjection, a family of Spanish words are 
reasonably supposed to be derived ; the verb arrear, * to 
drive mules,' arriero, the name for the * muleteer ' him- 
self, and so forth.* Now is this arre ! itself a genuine 
interjectional sound ? It seems likely to be so, for Captain 
Wilson found it in use in the Pelew Islands, where the 
paddlers in the canoes were kept up to their work by crying 
to them arree ! arree I Similar interjections are noticed 
elsewhere with a sense of mere affirmation, as in an Aus- 
tralian dialect where a-ree I is set down as meaning 
' indeed,' and in the Quichua language where art ! means 
^ yes ! ' whence the verb arini, ' to affirm.' Two other 
cautions are desirable in such enquiries. These are, not to 
travel too far from the absolute meaning expressed by the 
interjection, unless there is strong corroborative evidence. 

^ Bruyas, * Mohawk Lang./ p. 16, in Smithson. Contr. vol. iii. Schoolcraft, 
Indian Tribes/ Part iii. p. 328, 502, 507. Charlevoix, ‘ Nouv. France,* 
vol. i. p. 350. 

® The arre ! may have been introduced into Europe by the Moors, as it is 
used in Arabic, and its use in Europe corresponds nearly with the limits of 
the Moorish conquest, in Spain arre / in Provence arri ! 


and not to override ordinary etymology by treating deri- 
vative words as though they were radical. Without these 
checks, even sound principle breaks down in application, as 
the following two examples may show. It is quite true that 
Km ! is a common inter jectional call, and that the Dutch 
have made a verb of it, hemmen, * to hem after a person.' 
We may notice a similar call in West Africa, in the mma ! 
which is translated ‘ hallo ! stop ! ' in the language of 
Fernando Po. But to apply this as a derivation for German 
hemmen, ' to stop, check, restrain,* to hem in, and even to 
the hem of a garment, as Mr. Wedgwood does without even 
a perhaps,^ is travelling too far beyond the record. Again, 
it is quite true that sounds of clicking and smacking of the 
lips are common expressions of satisfaction all over the 
world, and words may be derived from these sounds, as 
where a vocabulary of the Chinook language of North-West 
America expresses * good * as tk4ok4c, or e4ok4e, sounds 
which we cannot doubt to be derived from such clicking 
noises, if the words are not in fact attempts to write down 
the very clicks themselves. But it does not follow that we 
may take such words as delicice, delicatus, out of a highly 
organized language like Latin, and refer them, as the same 
etymologist does, to an interjectional utterance of satisfac- 
tion, dlick To do this, is to ignore altogether the compo- 
sition of words ; we might as well explain Latin dilectus 
or English delight as direct formations from expressive 
sound. In concluding these remarks on interjections, two 
or three groups of words may be brought forward as 
examples of the application of collected evidence from a 
number of languages, mostly of the lower races. 

The affirmative and negative particles, which bear in lan- 
guage such meanings as ‘ yes ! * ‘ indeed ! * and ‘ no ! * 

‘ not,* may have their derivations from many different 
sources. It is thought that the Australian dialects all 
belong to a single stock, but so unlike are the sounds they 

^ Wedgwood, * Origin of Language,* p. 92. 

* Ibid., p. 72. 



use for ‘ no ! ' and ‘ yes ! ' that tribes are actually named 
from these words as a convenient means of distinction. 
Thus the tribes known as Gureang, Kamilaroi, Kogai, 
Wolaroi, Wailwun, Wiratheroi, have their names from the 
words they use for ‘ no/ these being gure, kamil, ko, 
wol, wail, wira, respectively ; and on the other hand the 
Pikambtd are said to be so called from their word pika, 
" yes.* The device of naming tribes, thus invented by the 
savages of Australia, and which perhaps recurs in Brazil in 
the name of the Cocatapuya tribe [coca ' no,’ tapuya ‘ man ’) 
is very curious in its similarity to the mediaeval division of 
Langue d'oc and Langue d'oU, according to the words for 
' yes ! ' which prevailed in Southern and Northern France : 
oc / is Latin hoc, as we might say ‘ that’s it ! ’ while the 
longer form hoc illud was reduced to oil ! and thence to 
oui ! Many other of the words for * yes ! ' and ‘ no ! ' may 
be sense-words, as, again, the French and Italian si ! is Latin 
sic. But on the other hand there is reason to think that 
many of these particles in use in various languages are not 
sense-words, but sound- words of a purely inter] cctional 
kind ; or, what comes nearly to the same thing, a feeling of 
litness of the sound to the meaning may have affected the 
choice and shaping of sense-words — a remark of large appli- 
cation in such enquiries as the present. It is an old 
suggestion that the primitive sound of such words as non is 
a nasal interjection of doubt or dissent.^ It corresponds in 
sound with the visible gesture of closing the lips, while a 
vowel-interjection, with or without aspiration, belongs 
rather to open-mouthed utterance. Whether from this or 
some other cause, there is a remarkable tendency among 
most distant and various languages of the world, on the one 
hand to use vowel-sounds, with soft or hard breathing, to 
express ‘ yes ! ’ and on the other hand to use nasal con- 
sonants to express ‘ no ! ’ The affirmative form is much 
the commoner. The guttural i-i ! of the West Australian, 
the ee I of the Darien, the a-ah ! of the Clallam, the e ! of 

* De Brosses, vol. i. p. 203. See Wedgwood. 


the Yakama Indians, the e I of the Basuto, and the ai ! of 
the Kanuri, are some examples of a wide group of forms, 
of which the following are only part of those noted down in 
Polynesian and South American districts — ii ! I ! ia ! 
aio I to I ya ! ey ! &c., K ! heh ! he-e ! hu ! hoehah ! ah-ha ! 
&c. The idea has most weight where pairs of words for 
' yes ! ' and ‘ no ! ' are found both conforming. Thus in 
the very suggestive description by Dobrizhoffer among the 
Abipones of South America, for ' yes 1 * the men and 
youths say h66 ! the women say had ! and the old men 
give a grunt ; while for * no * they all say yna ! and make 
the loudness of the sound indicate the strength of the 
negation. Dr. Martins's collection of vocabularies of 
Brazilian tribes, philologically very distinct, contains several 
such pairs of affirmatives and negatives, the equivalents of 

* yes ! ' — * no ! / being in Tupi ay 6 — aan ! aani ! ; in Guato 
ii ! — mau ! ; in Jumana, aeae ! — mdiu !; in Miranha ha u ! 
— nani ! The Quichua of Peru affirms by y I hu ! and 
expresses ‘ no,' * not,' ' not at all,' by ama ! manan ! &c., 
making from the latter the verb manamni, ‘ to deny.' 
The Quiche of Guatemala has e or ve for the affirmative, ma, 
matiy mana, for the negative. In Africa, again, the Galla 
language has ee ! for ' yes ! ’ and hn, hin, hni, for ‘ not ! ' ; 
the Femandian ee ! for ‘ yes ! ' and 'nt for ‘ not ; ' while the 
Coptic dictionary gives the affirmative (Latin ‘ sane ') as 
eie, ie, and the negative by a long list of nasal sounds such 
as an, emmen, en, ntmn, &c. The Sanskrit particles hi ! 

* indeed, certainly,' na, ' not,' exemplify similar forms in 
Indo-European* languages, down to our own aye ! and no 1^ 
There must be some meaning in all this, for otherwise I 
could hardly have noted down incidentally, without making 
any attempt at a general search, so many cases from such 
different languages, only finding a comparatively small 
number of contradictory cases.* 

^ Also Oraon hae — ambo ; Micmac e — mw. 

* A double contradiction in Carib anhan .'= ‘ yes ! * oua .'= ‘ no I ' Single 
contradictions in Catoquina hanfi ! Tupi eem ! Botocudo bemhem f Yoruba 



De Brosses maintained that the Latin stare, to stand, 
might be traced to an origin in expressive sound. He 
fancied he could hear in it an organic radical sign desig- 
nating fixity, and could thus explain why st ! should be used 
as a call to make a man stand still. Its connexion with 
these sounds is often spoken of in more modern books, and 
one imaginative German philologer describes their origin 
among primaeval men as vividly as though he had been 
there to see. A man stands beckoning in vain to a com- 
panion who does not see him, till at last his effort relieves 
itself by the help of the vocal nerves, and involuntarily there 
breaks from him the sound st ! Now the other hears the 
sound, turns toward it, sees the beckoning gesture, knows 
that he is called to stop ; and when this has happened 
again and again, the action comes to be described in com- 
mon talk by uttering the now familiar st ! and thus sta 
becomes a root, the symbol of the abstract idea to stand 
This is a most ingenious conjecture, but unfortunately 
nothing more. It would be at any rate strengthened,though 
not established, if its supporters could prove that the 
st ! used to call people in Germany, pst ! in Spain, is 
itself a pure inter] ectional sound. Even this, however, has 
never been made out. The call has not yet been shown to 
be in use outside our own Indo-European family of 
languages ; and so long as it is only found in use within 
these limits, an opponent might even plausibly claim it as 
an abbreviation of the very sta ! (' stay ! stop ! ') for which 
the theory proposes it as an origin.* 

eii / for ‘ yes I * Culino aiy / Australian yo / for ‘ no ! ’ &c. How much 
these sounds depend on peculiar intonation, we, who habitually use h* m t 
cither for * yes ! ’ or ‘ no ! ’ can well understand. 

^ (Charles de Brosses) ‘ Traits de la Formation M^canique des 
Langues, &c.* Paris, An. ix., vol. i. p. 238 j vol. ii. p. 313. Lazarus and 
Steinthal, ‘ Zcitschrift fiir Volkcrpsychologie,’ &c., vol. i. p. 421. Heysc, 
‘ System der Sprachwissenschaft,’ p. 73, Farrar, * Chapters on Language,^ 
p. 202. 

* similar sounds are used to command silence, to stop speaking as well 
as to stop going. English husht ! whist ! hist ! Welsh ust ! French chut f 
Italian zitto ! Swedish tyst ! Russian sC / and the Latin st ! so well described 


That it is not unfair to ask for fuller evidence of a 
sound being purely interjectional than its appearance in a 
single family of languages, may be shown by examining 
another group of interjections, which are found among the 
remotest tribeis, and thus have really considerable claims to 
rank among the primary sounds of language. These are 
the simple sibilants, s / sh ! h*sh / used especially to scare 
birds, and among men to express aversion or call for silence. 
Catlin describes a party of Sioux Indians, when they came 
to the portrait of a dead chief, each putting his hand over 
his mouth with a hushrsh ; and when he himself wished to 
approach the sacred ' medicine * in a Mandan lodge, he 
was called to refrain by the same hush-sh ! Among our- 
selves the sibilant interjection passes into two exactly 
opposite senses, according as it is meant to put the speaker 
himself to silence, or to command silence for him to be 
heard ; and thus we find the sibilant used elsewhere, some- 
times in the one way and sometimes in the other. Among 
the wild Veddas of Ceylon, iss ! is an exclamation of 
disapproval, as in ancient or modern Europe ; and the verb 
shdrak, to hiss, is used in Hebrew with a like sense, 
' they shall hiss him out oT his place.' But in Japan 
reverence is expressed by a hiss, commanding silence. 
Captain Cook remarked that the natives of the New 
Hebrides expressed their admiration by hissing like geese. 
Casalis says of the Basutos, ' Hisses are the most un- 
e(|uivo(;ai marks of applause, and are as much courted in 
the Afnean parliaments as they are dreaded by our candi- 
dates for popular favour.^ Among other sibilant interjec- 
tions, are Turkish susd I Ossetic ss ! sos I ‘silence!' 

in the curious old line quoted by Mr. Farrar, which compares it with the 
f:esturc of the finger on the lips ; — 

‘ Isis, et Harpocrates digito qui significat st / * 

This group of interjections, again, has not been proved to be in use outside 
Aryan limits. 

' Catlin, ‘ North American Indians,’ vol. i. pp. 221, 39, 151, 162. Bailey 
in ‘ Tr. Eth. Soc.,* vol. ii. p. 318. Job xxvii. 23. (The verb sbdrak also 
signifies to call by a hiss, ‘and he will hiss unto them from the end of the 



Femandian sia ! ' listen ! ' * tush ! ' Yoruba si 6 ! * pshaw I ' 
Thus it appears that these sounds, far from being special to 
one linguistic family, are very widespread elements of 
human speech. Nor is there any question as to their 
passage into fully-formed words, as in our verb to hush, 
which has passed into the sense of ‘ to quiet, put to sleep ' 
(adjectively, ‘ as hush as death '). metaphorically to hush up 
a matter, or Greek o-tfw ‘ to hush, say hush ! command 
silence.' Even Latin silere and Gothic silan, * to be silent,* 
may with some plausibility be explained as derived from the 
inter] ectional s ! of silence. 

Sanskrit dictionaries recognize several words which ex- 
plicitly state their own interjectional derivation ; such are 
hUnkdra (Aww-making) , * the utterance of the mystic 
religious exclamation hum t * and giggabda (pip-sound), * a 
hiss.* Besides these obvious formations, the interjectional 
element is present to some greater or less degree in the list of 
Sanskrit radicals, which represent probably better than those 
of any other language the verb-roots of the ancient Aryan 
stock. In ru, * to roar, cry, wail,* and in kakh, * to laugh,* 
we have the simpler kind of interjectional derivation, that 
which merely describes a sound. As to the more difficult 
kind, which carry the sense into a new stage, Mr. Wedgwood 
makes out a strong case for the connexion of interjections 
of loathing and aversion, such as pooh ! fie ! &c., with that 
large group of words which are represented in English by 
foul and fiend, in Sanskrit by the verbs pdy, ' to become 
foul, to stink,* and piy, pty, ‘ to revile, to hate.*^ Further 

earth, and behold, they shall come with speed,* Is. v. z6 ; Jer. xix. 8.) 
Alcock, * The Capital of the Tycoon,* vol. i. p. 394. Cook, * 2nd Voy.* 
vol. ii. p. 36. Casalis, ‘ Basutos,* p. 234. 

^ Wedgwood, ‘ Origin of Language,’ p. 83, * Dictionary,* Introd. p. xlix. 
and s.v. * foul.* Prof. Max Milller, ’ Lectures,’ 2nd series, p. 92, protests 
against the indiscriminate derivation of words directly from such cries and 
interjections, without the intervention of determinate roots. As to the 
present topic, he points out that Latin pus, putridus. Gothic fuls, English 
foul, follow Grimm’s law as if words derived from a single root. Admitting 
this, however, the question has to be raised, how far pure interjec- 
tions and their direct derivatives, being self-expressive and so to speak 

tqS emotional and imitative language. 

evidence may be here adduced in support of this theory. 
The languages of the lower races use the sound pu to 
express an evil smell ; the Zulu remarks that * the meat 
says pu * (inyama iti pu), meaning that it stinks ; the 
Timorese has poop * putrid ; ’ the Quiche language has 
puh, poh ‘ corruption, pus/ pohir * to turn bad, rot,* puz 
* rottenness, what stinks ; * the Tupi word for nasty, puxi, 
may be compared with the Latin putidus, and the Columbia 
River name for the ‘ skunk,* o-pun-pun, with similar names 
of stinking animals, Sanskrit putikd * civet-cat,* and French 
putois * pole-cat.* From the French interjection fi ! words 
have long been formed belonging to the language, if not 
authenticated by the Academy ; in mediaeval French 
‘ maistre fi-fi * was a recognized term for a scavenger, and 
fi-fi books are not yet extinct. 

f There has been as yet, unfortunately, too much separa- 
tion between what may be called generative philology, which 
examines into the ultimate origins of words, and historical 
philology, which traces their transmission and change. It 
will be a great gain to the science of language to bring these 
two branches of enquiry into closer union, even as the 
processes they relate to have been going on together since 
the earliest days of speech. At present the historical philo- 
logists of the school of Grimm and Bopp, whose great 
work has been the tracing of our Indo-European dialects 
to an early Aryan form of language, have had much the 
advantage in fulness of evidence and strictness of treatment. 
At the same time it is evident that the views of the genera- 
tive philologists, from De Brosses onward, embody a sound 

living sounds, are affected by phonetic changes such as that of Grimm’s 
law, which act on articulate sounds no longer fully expressive in them- 
selves, but handed down by mere tradition. Thus p and / occur in one and 
the same dialect in interjections of disgust and aversion, pub I fi ! being 
used in Venice or Paris, just as similar sounds would be in London. In 
tracing this group of words from early Aryan forms, it must also be noticed 
that Sanskrit is a very imperfect guide, for its alphabet has no /, and it can 
hardly give the rule in this matter to languages possessing both p and /, 
and thus capable of nicer appreciation of this class of interjections. 



principle, and that much of the evidence collected as to 
emotional and other directly expressive words, is of the 
highest value in the argument. But in working out the 
details of such word-formation, it must bereniembered that 
no department of philology lies more open to Augustine's 
caustic remark on the etymologists of his time, that like 
the interpretation of dreams, the derivation of words is 
set down by each man accoMing to his own fancy. (Ut 
somniorum interpretatio ita verborum origo pr«.» cujusque 
ingenio praedicatur.) 



Imitative Words — Human actions named from sound — Animals’ names from 
cries, &c, — ^Musical Instruments — Sounds reproduced — Words modi- 
fied to adapt sound to sense — Reduplication — Graduation of vowels to 
express distance and differencc-r-Children’s Language — Sound-words 
as related t^ Sense-words — Language an original product of the lower 

From the earliest times of language to our own day, it is 
unlikely that men ever quite ceased to be conscious that 
some of their words were derived from imitation of the 
common sounds heard about them. In our own modem 
English, for instance, results of such imitation are evident ; 
flies buzz, bees hum, snakes hiss, a cracker or a bottle of 
ginger-beer pops, a cannon or a bittern booms. In the 
words for animals and for musical instruments in the 
various languages of the world, the imitation of their cries 
and tones is often to be plainly heard, as in the names of 
the hoopoe, the ai-ai sloth, the kaka parrot, the Eastern 
tomtom, which is a drum, the African ulule, which is a flute, 
the Siamese khong-bong, which is a wooden harmonicon, and 
in like manner through a host of other words. But these 
evident cases are far from representing the whole effects of 
imitation on the growth of language. They form, indeed, 
the easy entrance to a philological region, which becomes 
less penetrable the farther it is explored. 

The operations of which we see the results before us in 
the actual languages of the world seem to have been some- 
what as follows. Men have imitated their own emotional 
utterances or interjections, the cries of animals, the tones of 




musical instruments, the sounds of shouting, howling, 
stamping, breaking, tearing, scraping, with others which 
are all day coming to their ears, and out of these imitations 
many current words indisputably have their source. But 
these words, as we find them in use, differ often widely, 
often beyond all recognition, from the original sounds they 
sprang from. In the first place, man's voice can only make 
a very rude copy of most sounds his ear receives ; his pos- 
sible vowels are very limited in their range compared with 
natural tones, and his possible consonants still more helpless 
as a means of imitating natural noises. Moreover, his voice 
is only allowed to use a part even of this imperfect imitative 
power, seeing that each language for its own convenience re- 
stricts it to a small number of set vowels and consonants, to 
which the imitative sounds have to conform, thus becoming 
conventionalized into articulate words with further loss of 
imitative accuracy. No class of words have a more perfect 
imitative origin than those which simply profess to be vocal 
imitations of sound. How ordinary alphabets to some 
extent succeed and to some extent fail in writing down these 
sounds may be judged from a few examples. Thus, the 
Australian imitation of a spear or bullet striking is given as 
loop ; to the Zulu, when a calabash is beaten, it says boo ; 
the Karens hear the flitting ghosts of the dead call in the 
wailing voice of the wind, re, re, ro, ro ; the old traveller, 
Pietro della Valle, tells how the Shah of Persia sneered at 
Timur and his Tartars, with their arrows that went ter ter ; 
certain Buddhist heretics maintained that water is alive, 
because when it boils it says chichitd, chitichita, a symptom 
of vitality which occasioned much theological controversy 
as to drinking cold and warm water. Lastly, sound-words 
taken up into the general inventory of a language have to 
follow its organic changes, and in the course of phonetic 
transition, combination, decay, and mutilation, to lose ever 
more and more ,their original shape. . To take a single 
example, the French huer * to shout ' (Welsh hwa) may be 
a perfect imitative verb j yet when it passes into modern 



English hue and cry, our changed pronunciation of the 
vowel destroys all imitation of the call. Now to the 
language-makers all this Was of little account. They 
merely wanted recognized words to express recognized 
thought, and no doubt arrived by repeated trials at systems 
which were found practically to answer this purpose. But to 
the modem philologist, who is attempting to work out the 
converse of the problem, and to follow backward the course 
of words to original imitative sound, the difficulty is most 
embarrassing. It is not only that thousands of words really 
derived from such imitation may now by successive change 
have lost all safe traces of their history ; such mere 
deficiency of knowledge is only a minor evil. What is far 
worse is that the way is thrown open to an unlimited 
number of false solutions, which yet look on the face of 
them fully as like truth as others which we know historically 
to be true. One thing is clear, that it is of no use to resort 
to violent means, to rush in among the \\'oi-ds of language, 
explaining them away right and left as derived each from 
some remote application of an imitative noise. The advo- 
cate of the Imitative Theory \\}io attempts this, trusting in 
his own powers of discernm(*nt, has indeed taken in hand a 
perilous task, for, in fact, of all judges of the question at 
issue, he has nourished and trained himself up to become* the 
very worst. His imagination is ever suggesting to him 
what his judgment would like to find true ; like a witness 
answering the questions of the counsel on his own side, he 
answers in good faith, but with what bias we all know. 
It was thus with De Brosses, to whom this department of 
philology ow^es so much. It is nothing to say that he had 
a keen ear for the voice of Nature ; she must have positively 
talked to him in alphabetic language, for he could hear the 
sound of hollowness in the sk of irKawTUi * to dig,’ of 
hardness in the cal of callosity, the noise of insertion of a 
body between two others in the ir of irans, intra. In 
enquiries so liable to misleading fancy, no pains should be 
spared in securing impartial testimony, and it fortunately 



happens that there are available sources of such evidence, 
which, when thoroughly worked, will give to the theory of 
imitative words as near an approach to accuracy as has been 
attained to in any other wide philological problem. By 
comparing a number of languages, widely apart in their 
general system and materials, and whose agreement as 
to the words in question can only be accounted for by 
similar formation of words from similar suggestion of sound, 
we obtain groups of words whose imitative character is in- 
disputable. The groups here considered consist in general 
of imitative words of the simpler kind, those directly con- 
nected with the special sound they are taken from, but their 
examination to some extent admits of words being brought 
in, where the connexion of the idea expressed with the 
sound imitated is more remote. This, lastly, opens the far 
wider and more difficult problem, how far imitation of 
sounds is the primary cause of the great mass of words in 
the vocabularies of the world, between whose sound and 
sense no direct connexion appears. 

Words which express human actions accompanied with 
sound form a very laige and intelligible class. In remote 
and most different languages, we find such forms as pu, puf, 
bu, buf, fu, fuj, in use with the meaning of puffing, fuffing ; 
or blowing ; Malay puput; Tongan buhi; Maori pupui; Aus- 
tralian bobun, bwa-bun; Galla hufa, afufa; Zulu ftda, punga, 
pupuza (fu, pu, used as expressive particles) ; Quiche puba : 
Quichua puhuni; Tupi ypeu; Finnish puhkia; Hebrew 
puack ; Danish pust'e ; Lithuanian pilciu ; and in numbers 
of other languages here, grammatical adjuncts apart, the 
significant force lies in the imitative syllable. Savages have 
named the European musket when they saw it, by the sound 
pu, describing not the report, but the puff of smoke issuing 
from the muzzle. The Society Islanders supposed at first 
that the white men blew through the barrel of the gun, and 
they called it accordingly pupuhi, from the verb puhi to 

^ Mpongwe punjina j Basuto ioka; Carib phoubde ; Arawac appudun (igncm 
5ufflare), Other cases arc given by Wedgwood, * Or. of Lang.* p. 83. 


blow, while the New Zealanders more simply called it a pa. 
So the Amaxosa of South Africa call it umpu, from the 
imitative sound pu I The Chinook Jargon of North-West 
America uses the phrase mamook poo (make poo) for a verb 
* to shoot,' and a six-chambered revolver is called tohum 
poo, i.e,, a ‘ six-poo,* When a European uses the word 
puff to denote the discharge of a gun, he is merely referring 
to the smoke blown out, as he would speak of a puff of 
wind, or even a powder-/)w// or a puff-hdil ; and when a 
pistol is called in colloquial German a puffer, the meaning 
of the word matches that used for it in French Argot, a 
' soufflant.* It has often been supposed that the puff 
imitates the actual sound, the bang of the gun, and this has 
been brought forward to show by what extremely different 
words one and the same sound may be imitated, but this is 
a mistake.^ These derivations of the name of the gun from 
the notion of blowing correspond with those which give 
names to the comparatively noiseless blow-tube of the bird- 
hunter, called by the Indians of Yucatan a pub, in South 
America by the Chiquitos a pucuna, by the Cocamas a pu- 
na, Looking into vocabularies of languages which have 
such verbs ‘ to blow,’ it is usual to find with them other 
words apparently related to them, and expressing more or 
less distant ideas. Thus Australian poo-yu, puyu ‘ smoke ; " 
Quichua puhucuni ‘ to light a fire,' punquini * to swell,' 
puyu, puhuyu ‘ a cloud ; ’ Maori puku * to pant,’ puka 
' to swell ; ' Tupi pupti, pupurc ' to boil ; ’ Galla buhe 
‘ wind,’ bubiza * to cool by blowing ; ’ Kanuri (root fu) 
fungin ‘ to blow, swell,' jurndu * a stuffed pad or bolster,' 
&c., bubutc ‘ bellows ’ {bubutc fungin ‘ I blow the bellows ') ; 
Zulu (dropping the prefixes) puku, pukupu * frothing, foam,' 
whence pukupuku ‘ an empty frothy fellow,’ pupuma ' to 
bubble, boil,’ fu ‘ a cloud,’ fumfu ' blown about like high 
grass in the wind,’ whence fumfuta * to be confused, thrown 
into disorder,’ futo * bellows,’ fuba ‘ the breast, chest,' then 
figuratively ' bosom, conscience.’ 

^ Sec Wedgwood, * Die.’ Introd. p. viii. 



The group of words belonging to the closed lips, of which 
mum, mumming, mumble are among the many forms belong- 
ing to European languages/ are worked out in like manner 
among the lower races — Vei mu mu ' dumb ' ; Mpongwe 
imamu * dumb ' ; Zulu momaia (from moma, ‘ a motion 
with the mouth as in mumbling') 'to move the mouth or 
lips,' mumata * to close the lips as with a mouthful of 
water,' mumuta, mumuza * to eat mouthfuls of corn, &c., 
with the lips shut ; ' Tahitian mamu ‘ to be silent,' omumu 
* to murmur ; ' Fijian, nomo, nomo-nomo ' to be silent ; 
Chilian, tlomn * to be silent ; ' Quichd, mem * mute,' 
whence memer * to become mute ; ’ Quichua, amu ‘ dumb, 
silent,' amullini 'to have something in the mouth,' amul- 
layacuni simicta * to mutter, to grumble.' The group 
represented by Sanskrit t*htlVhii ' the sound of spitting,' 
Persian thu kerdan (make thu) ‘to spit,' Greek tttvo). may 
be compared with Chinook mamook ioh, took, (make toh, 
took) ; Chilian tuvcutun (make tuv) ; Tahitian tutua ; Galla 
twu ; Yoruba tu. Among the Sanskrit verb-roots, none 
carries its imitative nature more plainly than kshu ‘ to 
sneeze ; ' the following analogous forms are from South 
America : — Chilian, echiun ; Quichua, achhini ; and from 
various languages of Brazilian tribes, tccha-ai, haitschu, 
atchian, natschun, aritischune, &c. Another imitative verb 
is we’' shown in the Negro-English dialect of Surinam, 
njam ‘to eat' (pron. nyam), njam-njam ‘ food ' (‘ en hem 
njanjam ben de sprinkhan nanga boesi-honi ' — ' and his 
meat was locusts and wild honey ’). In Australia the 
imitative verb ‘ to eat ' reappears as g*nam-ang. In Africa 
the Susu language has nimnim, ‘ to taste,’ and a similar 
formation is observed in the Zulu nambita ‘ to smack the 
lips after eating or tasting, and thence to be tasteful, to be 
pleasant to the mind.' This is an excellent instance of the 
transition of mere imitative sound to the expression of 
mental emotion, and it corresponds with the imitative way 
in which the Yakama language, in speaking of little children 

^ See Wedgwood, Die., s.v. * mum,’ &c. 


or pet animals, expresses the verb ' to love ' as nem-no-sha 
(to make n‘m-n*). In more civilized countries these forms 
are mostly confined to baby-language. The Chinese child's 
word for eating is nam, in English nurseries nim is noticed 
as answering the same purpose, and the Swedish dictionary 
even recognizes namnam ‘ a tid-bit.' 

As for imitative names of animals derived from their cries 
or noises, they are to be met with in every language from 
the Australian twonk * frog,' the Yakama roUrol ' lark,' to 
the Coptic eeib ' ass,' the Chinese 'inaou ' cat,' and the 
English cuckoo and peewit. Their general principle of 
formation being acknowledged, their further philological 
interest turns mostly on cases where corresponding words 
have thus been formed independently in distant regions, 
and those where the imitative name of the creature, or its 
habitual sound, passes to express some new idea suggested 
by its character. The Sanskrit name of the kdka crow re- 
appears in the name of a similar bird in British Columbia, 
the kah-kah ; a fly is called by the natives of Australia a 
bumberoo, like Sanskrit bambhardli 'fly,' Greek ;8o^-/3uAtos, 
and our bumble-hee. Analogous ^o the name of the 
isc-tse fly, the terror of African travellers, is ntsintsi, the 
word for ' fly ' among the Basutos, which also, by a simple 
metaphor, serves to express the idea of ‘ a parasite.' Mr. 
H. W. Bates's description seems to settle the dispute 
among naturalists, whether the toucan had its name from 
its cry or not. He speaks of its loud, shrill, yelping cries 
having ‘ a vague resemblance to the syllables tocdno, tocdno, 
and hence the Indian narqc of this genus of birds.' 
Granting this, we can trace this sound-word into a very 
new meaning ; for it appears that the bird's monstrous bill 
has suggested a name for a certain large-nosed tribe of 
Indians, who are accordingly called Tucanos} The 
cock, gallo quiquiriqui, as the Spanish nursery-language 
calls him, has a long list of names from various languages 

^ Bates, ‘ Naturalist on the Amazons,* 2nd cd., p. 404 : Markham in * Tr. 
Eth. Soc.,’ vol. iii. p. 143. 



which in various ways imitate his crowing ; in Yoruba he 
is called koklo, in Ibo okoko, akoka, in Zulu kuku, in Fin- 
nish kukko, in Sanskrit kukkuta, and so on. He is men- 
tioned in the Zend-Avesta in a very curious way, by a 
name which elaborately imitates his cry, but which the 
ancient Persians seem to have held disrespectful to their 
holy bird, who rouses men from sleep to good thought, 
word, and work * 

‘ The bird who bears the name of Parodars, O holy Zarathustra ; 

Upon whom evil-speaking men impose the name Kahrkata^.* ^ 

The crowing of the cock (Malay kdkinik, kukuk) serves to 
mark a point of time, cockcrow. Other words originally 
derived from such imitation of crowing have passed into 
other curiously transformed meanings : Old French cocart 
‘ vain modern French coquet * strutting like a cock, 
coquetting, a coxcomb;* cocarde ‘a cockade* (from its 
likeness to a cock's comb) ; one of the best instances is 
coquelicot, a name given for the same reason to the wild 
poppy, and even more distinctly in Languedoc, where 
cacaracd means both the crowing and the flower. The hen 
in some languages has a name corresponding to that of the 
cock, as in Kussa kukuduna ‘ cock,' kukukasi ‘ hen ; ' Ewe 
koklo4su ' cock,' koklo-no * hen ; ' and her cackle (whence 
she has in Switzerland the name of gugel, guggel) haus passed 
into language as a tenii for idle gossip and chatter of 
women, caqnct, caqueter, gackern, much as the noise of a 
very different creature seems to have given rise not only to 
its name, Italian cicala, but to a group of words represented 
by cicalar ‘to chirp, chatter, talk sillily.’ The pigeon is a 
good example of this kind, both for sound and sense. It is 
Latin pipio, Italian pippione, piccione, pigione, modern 
Greek TrtTTtrtov, French pipion (old), pigeon; its derivation 
is from the young bird’s peep, Latin pipirc, Italian pipiarc, 
pigiolare, modern Greek TriTriviCio, to chirp ; by an easy 
metaphor, a pigeon comes to mean ‘ a silly young fellow 

* * Avesta,’ Farg. xviii. 34^5. 



easily caught/ to pigeon * to cheat/ Italian pipione * a silly 
gull, one that is soon caught and trepanned,’ pippionarc 

* to pigeon, to gull one.’ In an entirely different family of 
languages, Mr. Wedgwood points out a curiously similar 
process of derivation ; Magyar pipegni, pipelni ‘ to peep 
or cheep ; ’ pipe, pipbk ‘ a chicken, gosling ; ’ pipe-ember 
(chicken-man), ' a silly young fellow, booby. The deri- 
vation of Greek Latin bos, Welsh bu, from the ox’s 
lowing, or booing as it is called in the north country, has 
been much debated. With an excessive desire to make 
Sanskrit answer as a general Indo-European type, Bopp 
connected Sanskrit go, old German chuo, English cow, with 
these words, on the unusual and forced assumption of a 
change from guttural to labial.^ The direct derivation from 
sound, however, is favoured by other languages, Cochin- 
Chinese bo, Hottentot bou. The beast may almost answer 
for himself in the words of that Spanish proverb which 
remarks that people talk according to their nature : 

* Habl6 el buey, y dijo bu ! ’ ' The ox spoke, and he 

said boo ! ’ 

Among musical instruments with’ imitative names are 
the following : — the shee-shcc-quoi, the mystic rattle of the 
Red Indian medicine-man, an imitative word which re- 
appears in the Darien Indian shak-shak, the shook-shook 
of the Arawaks, the Chinook shtigh (whence shugh-opoots , 
rattletail, i.e,, ' rattlesnake ; ’) — the drum, called ganga in 
Haussa, gangan in the Yoruba country, gunguma by the 
Gallas, and having its analogue in the Eastern gong ; — the 
bell, called in Yakama (N. Amer.) kwa-lal-kwa-lal, in Yalof 
(\\’. Afr.) walwal, in Russian kolokoL The sound of the 
horn is imitated in English nurseries as toot-toot, and this is 
transferred to express the ‘ omnibus ' of which the bugle is 
the signal : with this nursery word is to be classed the 

' Wedgwood, Die., s.v. * pigeon ;* Dicz, * Etym. Worterb.,’ s.v. ‘ pic- 

®Bopp, ‘Gloss. Sanscr.,* s.v. ‘go.’ Sec Pott, ‘ Wurzel-Worterb. der 
Indo-Gcrm. Spr.,’ s.v. ‘ gu,* ‘ Zahlmethode,’ p. 227. 



Peruvian name for the ‘ shell-trumpet/ pututu, and the 
Gothic thuthaurn (/Aw/-hom), which is even used in the 
Gothic Bible for the last trumpet of the day of judgement, — 
^ In spfidistin thuthauma. thuthaiirneith auk j ah dauthans 
ustandand ' (i Cor. xv. 52). How such imitative words, 
when thoroughly taken up into language, suffer change of 
pronunciation in which the original sound-meaning is lost» 
may be seen in the English word tahoty which we might 
not recognize as a sound-word at all, did we not notice that 
it is French tabour, a word which in the form tambour ob- 
viously belongs to a group of words for drums, extending 
from the small rattling Arabic tubl to the Indian dundhubi 
and the tombcy the Moqui drum made of a hollowed log. 
The same group shows the transfer of such imitative words 
to objects which are like the instrument, but have nothing 
to do with its sound ; few people who talk of tambour-wovky 
and fewer still who speak of a footstool as a tabouret, asso- 
ciate these words with the sound of a drum, yet the con- 
nexion is clear enough. When these two processes go on 
together, and a sound-word changes its original sound on 
the one hand, and trayasfers its meaning to something else 
on the other, the result may soon leave philological ana- 
lysis quite helpless, unless by accident historical evidence 
is forthcoming. Thus with the English word pipe. 
Putting aside the particular pronunciation which we give 
the word, and referring it back to its mediaeval Latin or 
French sound in pipa, pipe, we have before us an evident 
imitative name of a musical instrument, derived from a 
familiar sound used also to represent the chirping of 
chickens, Latin pipire, English to peep, ais in the trans- 
lation of Isaiah viii. 19 : ‘ Seek . . . unto wizards that 
peep, and that mutter.' The Algonquin Indians appear 
to have formed from this sound pib (with a grammatical 
suffix) their name for the pib-e-gwun or native flute. Now 
just as tuba, tubus, ' a trumpet ' (itself very likely an 
imitative word) has given a name for any kind of tube, 
so the word pipe has been transferred from the musical 



instrument to which it first belonged, and is used to 
describe tubes of various sorts, gas-pipes, water-pipes, 
and pipes in general. There is nothing unusual in these 
transitions of meaning, which are in fact rather the rule 
than the exception. The chibouk was originally a herds- 
man's pipe or flute in Central Asia. The calumet, popu- 
larly ranked with the tomahawk and the mocassin among 
characteristic Red Indian words, is only the name for a 
shepherd's pipe (Latin calamus) in the dialect of Normandy, 
corresponding with the chalumeau of literary French ; 
for when the early colonists in Canada saw the Indians 
l^erforming the strange operation of smoking, ‘ with a 
hollow piece of stone or wood like a pipe,' as Jacques 
Cartier has it, they merely gave to the native tobacco- 
pipe the name of the French musical instrument it re- 
sembled. Now changes of sound and of sense like this of 
the English word pipe must have been in continual opera- 
tion in hundreds of languages where we have no evidence to 
follow them by, and where we probably may never obtain 
such evidence. But what little we do know must compel us 
to do justice to the imitation of sound as a really existing 
process, capable of furnishing an indefinitely large supply of 
words for things and actions which have no necessary 
connexion at all with that sound. Where the traces of the 
transfer are lost, the result is a stock of w^ords which are 
the despair of philologists, but are perhaps none the less 
fitted for the practical use of men who simply want recog- 
nized symbols for recognized ideas. 

The claim of the Eastern tomtom to have its name from a 
mere imitation of its sound seems an indisputable one ; but 
when it is noticed in what various languages the beating of a 
resounding object is expressed by something like turn, tumh, 
tump, tup, as in Javan tumbuk, Coptic tmno, * to pound in a 
mortar,' it becomes evident that the admission involves 
more than at first sight appears. In Malay, timpa, tampa, 
is ‘ to beat out, hammer, forge ; ' in the Chinook Jargon 
tum-tum is * the heart,' and by combining the same sound 



with the English word ' water/ a name is made for 
‘ waterfall/ tum-wdta. The Gallas of East Africa declare 
that a box on the ear seems to them to make a noise like 
tubf for they call its sound tubdjeda, that is, ‘ to say tub.* 
In the same language, tuma is ‘ to beat,' whence iumtu, * a 
workman, especially one who beats, a smith.' With the 
aid of another imitative word, bufa ‘ to blow,' the Gallas 
can construct this wholly imitative sentence, tumtun bufa 
bufti, ‘ the smith blows with bellows,' as an English 
child might say, ' the tumtum puffs the puffer.* This 
imitative sound seems to have obtained a footing among the 
Aryan verb-roots, as in Sanskrit tup, tubh * to smite,' while 
in Greek, tup, tump, has the meaning of ‘ to beat, to 
thump,* producing for instance rv^nravov, tympanum, * a 
drum or tomtom.* Again, the verb to crack has become in 
modem English as thorough a root-word as the language 
possesses. The mere imitation of the sound of breaking 
has passed into a verb to break ; we speak of a cracked cup 
or a cracked reputation without a thought of imitation of 
sound ; but we cannot yet use the German krachen or 
French craquer in this way, for they have not developed in 
meaning as our word has, but remain in their purely imita- 
tive stage. There are two corresponding Sanskrit words 
for the saw, kra~kara, kra-kacha, that is to say, the ‘ kra- 
maker, kra-cner ; ' and it is to be observed that all such 
terms, which expressly state that they are imitations of 
sound, are particularly valuable evidence in these enquiries, 
for whatever doubt there may be as to other words being 
really derived from imitative sound, there can, of course, be 
none here. Moreover, there is evidence of the same sound 
having given rise to imitative words in other families of 
language, Deihoman kra-kra, * a watchman's rattle ; ' Grebo 
grikd * a saw ; ' Aino chacha * to saw ; ' Malay graji ‘ a 
saw,' karat * to gnash the teeth,' karot ‘ to make a grating 
noise ; ' Coptic khrij * to gnash the teeth,' khrafrej * to 
grate.* Another form of the imitation is given in the 
descriptive Galla expression cacakdjeda, i.e., * to say 



cacak* * to crack, krachen.* With this sound corresponds 
a whole family of Peruvian words, of which the root seems 
to be the guttural cca, coming from far back in the throat ; 
ccaUani, * to break,' ccatatani, ' to gnash the teeth,' 
ccacHiy, ‘ thunder,' and the expressive words for ‘ a thun- 
der-storm,' ccaccaccahay , which carries the imitative process 
so much farther than such European words as thunder-c/a/), 
donner-Aia^/. In Maori, pata is ' to patter as water drop- 
ping, drops of rain.' The Manchu language describes the 
noise of fruits falling from the trees as pata paia (so Hindu- 
stani bhadbhad) ; this is like our word pat, and we should 
say in the same manner that the fruit comes pattering 
down, while French patatra is a recognized imitation of 
something falling. Coptic potpt is * to fall,' and the 
Australian badbadin (or patpatin) is translated into almost 
literal English as pitpatting. On the strength of such non- 
Aryan languages, are we to assign an imitative origin 
to the Sanskrit verb-root pat, ‘ to fall,' and to Gxptk 

TTLirro) ? 

Wishing rather to gain a clear survey of the principles of 
language-making than to plunge intaobscure problems, it is 
not necessary for me to discuss here questions of intricate 
detail. The point which continually arises is this, — granted 
that a particular kind of transition from sound to sense is 
possible in the abstract, may it be safely claimed in a parti- 
cular case ? In looking through the vocabularies of the 
world, it appears that most languages offer words which, by 
obvious likeliness or by their correspondence with similar 
forms elsewhere, may put forward a tolerable claim to be 
considered imitative. Some languages, as Aztec or 
Mohawk, offer singularly few examples, while in others 
they are much more numerous. Take Australian cases : 
walle, ‘ to wail ;' bung-bung-ween, ' thunder ;* wirriti, ‘ to 
blow, as wind ; ' wirrirriti, ' to storm, rage, as in fight ; ' 
wirri, bwirri, ‘ the native throwing club,' seemingly so 
called from its whir through the air ; kurarriti, * to hum, 
buzz ; ' kurrirrurriri, * round about, unintelligible,' &c. ; 



fiiata, * to knock, pelt, as rain,* pitapitata, * to knock ; ' 
wiiti, * to laugh, rejoice ' — as in our own ' Tumament of 
Tottenham ' : — 

* “ We te be / ” qu oth Tyb, and lugh, 

“ Yc cr a dughty man ! ** ^ 

The so-called Chinook Jargon of British Columbia is a 
language crowded with imitative words, sometimes adopted 
from the native Indian languages, sometimes made on the 
spot by the combined efforts of the white man and the 
Indian to make one another understand. Samples of its 
quality are hdh-hoh, * to cough,’ kd-ko, * to knock,’ kwa- 
lal-kwa-laly * to gallop,* muck-a-muck, ‘ to eat,* chak-chak, 

* the bald eagle * (from its scream), mamook tsish (make 
tsish), * to sharpen on the grindstone.* It has been 
remarked by Prof. Max Muller that the peculiar sound 
made in blowing out a candle is not a favourite in civilized 
languages, but it seems to be recognized here, for no doubt 
it is what the compiler of the vocabulary is doing his best 
to write down when he gives mamook poh (make poh) as the 
Chinook expression for ' to blow out or extinguish as a 
candle.* This jargon is in great measure of new growth 
within the last seventy or eighty years, but its imitative 
words do not differ in nature from those of the more 
ordinary and old-established languages of the world. Thus 
among Brazilian tribes there appear Tupi corordng, cururuc, 

* to snore * (compare Coptic kherkher, Quichua ccorcuni 
(ccor) ), whence it appears that an imitation of a snore may 
perhaps serve the Carajas Indians to express * to sleep ’ as 
arourou-crd, as well as the related idea of ' night,’ rooti. 
Again Pimenteira ebaung, ‘ to bruise, beat,’ compares with 
Yoruba gba, * to slap,’ gbd (gbang) * to sound loudly, to 
bang,* and so forth. Among African languages, the Zulu 
seems particularly rich in imitative words. Thus bibiza, 

* to dribble like children, drivel in speaking ' (compare 
English bib) ; babala, * the larger bush-antelope ’ (from the 
baa of the female) ; boba, * to babble, chatter, be noisy,* 
bobi, * a babbler ;* bobqni, ‘ a throstle * (cries bo ! bo ! com- 


pare American bobolink) ; bomboloza, * to rumble in the 
bowels, to have a bowel-complaint ; ' bubula, * to buzz like 
bees/ bubulela, * a swarm of bees, a buzzing crowd of 
people ; ' bubuluza, ' to make a blustering noise, like froth- 
ing beer or boiling fat/ These examples, from among 
those given under one initial letter in one dictionary of one 
barbaric language, may give an idea of the amount of the 
evidence from the languages of the lower races bearing on 
the present problem. 

For the present purpose of giving a brief series of ex- 
amples of the sort of words in which imitative sound seems 
fairly traceable^ the strongest and most manageable evidence 
is of course found among such words as directly describe 
sounds or what produces them, such as cries of and 
names for animals, the terms for action accompanied by 
sound, and the materials and objects so acted upon. In 
further investigation it becomes more and more requisite 
to isolate the sound-type or root from the modifications 
and additions to which it has been subjected for gram- 
matical and phonetical adaptation. It will serve to give 
an idea of the extent and intricacy of this problem, to 
glance at a group of words 'in one European language, 
and notice the etymological network which spreads round 
the German word klapf, in Grimm's dictionary, klap- 
pen, klippen, klopfen, kldffen, klimpern, klampern, klateren, 
kloteren, kliiteren, klatzen, klacken, and more, to be 
matched with allied forms in other languages. Setting 
aside the consideration of grammatical inflexion, it be- 
longs to the present subject to notice that man's imita- 
tive faculty in language is by no means limited to making 
direct copies of sound and shaping them into words. It 
seizes upon ready-made terms of whatever origin, alters 
and adapts them to make their sound fitting to their 
sense, and pours into the dictionaries a flood of adapted 
words of which the most difficult to analyse are those 
which are neither altogether etymological nor altogether 
imitative, but partly both. How words, while preserving. 



SO to speak, the same skeleton, may be made to follow 
the variation of sound, of force, of duration, of size, 
an imitative group more or less connected with the 
last will show — cricks creak, crack, crash, crush, crunch, 
craunch, scrunch, scraunch. It does not at all follow 
that because a word suffers such imitative and symbolic 
changes it must be, like this, directly imitative in its 
origin. What, for instance, could sound more imitative 
than the name of that old-fashioned cannon for throwing 
grape-shot, the patterero ? Yet the etymology of the word 
appears in the Spanish form pedrero, French perrier ; it 
means simply an instrument for throwing stones [piedra, 
pierre), and it was only when the Spanish word was adopted 
in England that the imitative faculty caught and trans- 
formed it into an apparent sound- word, resembling the verb 
to patter. The propensity of language, especially in slang, 
to make sense of strange words by altering them into 
something with an appropriate meaning has been often 
dwelt upon by philologists, but the propensity to alter words 
into something with an appropriate sound has produced 
results immensely more important. The effects of symbolic 
change of sound acting upon verb-roots seem almost bound- 
less. The verb to waddle has a strong imitative appearance, 
and so in German we can hardly resist the suggestion 
that imitative sound has to do with the difference between 
wandern and wandcln ; but all these verbs belong to a 
family represented by Sanskrit vad, to go, Latin vado, and to 
this root there seems no sufficient ground for assigning an 
imitative origin, the traces of which it has at any rate lost 
if it ever had them. Thus, again, to stamp with the foot, 
which has been claimed as an imitation of sound, seems only 
a ' coloured ' word. The root sta, ' to stand,' Sanskrit 
sthd, forms a causative stap, Sanskrit sthdpay, * to make to 
stand,' English to stop, and a iooi-stcp is when the foot 
comes to a stand, a iooi-stop. But we have Anglo-Saxon 
stapan, stcepan, steppan, English to step, varying to express 
its meaning by sound in to staup, to stamp, to stump, and 



to stomp, contrasting in their violence or clumsy weight 
v/ith the foot on the Dorset cottage-sill in Barnes's 
poem : — 

' Where love do seek the maiden’s cvcnin vloor, 

Wi’ stip-step light, an tip-tap slight 
Agean the door.’ 

By expanding, modifying, or, so to speak, colouring, 
sound is able to produce effects closely like those of gesture- 
language, expressing length or shortness of time, strength 
or weakness of action, and then passing into a further stage 
to describe greatness or smallness of size or of distance, 
and thence making its way into the widest fields of metaphor. 
And it does all this with a force which is surprising when 
we consider how childishly simple are the means employed. 
Thus the Bachapin of Africa call a man with the cry hila ! 
but according as he is far or farther off the sound of the 
heela ! he-e-la ! is lengthened out. Mr. Macgregor in his 
' Rob Roy on the Jordan,' graphically describes this method 
of expression, ‘ But where is Zalmouda ? " ... Then 
with rough eagerness the strongest of the Dowana faction 
pushes his long forefinger forward, pointing straight enough 
— but whither ? and with a volley of words ends, Ah-ah-a- 

a-a a-a. This strange expression had long before 

puzzled me when first heard from a shepherd in Bashan. 
. . . But the simple meaning of this long string of ‘‘ ah*s " 
shortened, and quickened, and lowered in tone to the end, 
is merely that the place pointed to is a “ very great way 
off." ' The Chinook Jargon, as usual representing primitive 
developments of language, uses a similar device in lengthen- 
ing the sound of words to indicate distance. The Siamese 
can, by varying the tone-accent, make the syllable won, 
‘ there,' express a near, indefinite, or far distance, and in 
like manner can modify the meaning of such a word as ny, 
* little.* In the Gaboon, the strength with which such a 
word as mpolu, * great,' is uttered serves to show whether 
it is great, very great, or very very great, and in this way, 
as Mr. Wilson remarks in his Mpongwe Grammar, ' the 



comparative degrees of greatness, smallness, hardness, 
rapidity, and strength, &c., may be conveyed with more 
accuracy and precision tham could readily be conceived.’ 
In Madagascar ratchi means ' bad,’ but rdtchi is ‘ very 
bad.’ The natives of Australia, according to Oldfield, 
show the use of this process in combination with that of 
symbolic reduplication : among the Watchandie tribe jir-ric 
signifies ' already or past,' jir-rie jir-rie indicates ‘ a long 
time ago,’ while jie-r-rie jirrie (the first syllable being 
dwelt on for some time) signifies ‘ an immense time ago.’ 
Again, boo-rie is ‘ small,’ boo-rie-boo-rie ' very small,’ and 
b-o-rie boorie ‘ exceedingly small.’ Wilhelm von Humboldt 
notices the habit of the southern Guarani dialect of South 
America of dwelling more or less time on the suffix of the 
perfect tense, yma, y — ma, to indicate the length or short- 
ness of the distance of time at which the action took place ; 
and it is curious to observe that a similar contrivance is 
made use of among the aboriginal tribes of India, where the 
Ho language forms a future tense by adding d to the root, 
and prolonging its sound, kajce ‘ to speak,’ Amg kajeed 
' I will speak.’ As ipight be expected, the languages of 
very rude tribes show extremely well how the results of 
such primitive processes pass into the recognized stock of 
language. Nothing could be better for this than the words 
by which one of the rudest of living races, the Botocudos of 
Brazil, express the sea. They have a word for a stream, 
ouatou, and an adjective which means great, ijipakijiou ; 
thence the two words ‘ stream-great,’ a little strengthened 
in the vowels, wiU give the term for a river, ouatou- 
ijiipakiiijou, as it were, ‘ stream-grea-at,’ and this, to 
express the immensity of the ocean, is amplified into ouatou- 
iijipakiijou-othou-ou-ou-ou. Another tribe of the same 
family works out the same result more simply ; the word 
ouatou, ‘ stream,’ becomes ouaiou-ou-ou-ou, ’ the sea.’ The 
Chavantes very naturally stretch the expression rotn-o-wodi, 

‘ I go a long way,’ into rom-o-o-o-o-wodi, ‘ I go a very 
long way indeed,’ and when they are called upon to count 



beyond live they say it is ka-o-0‘Oki, by which they evidently 
mean it is a very great many. The Cauixanas in one 
vocabulary are described as saying lawauugabi for four, and 
drawling out the same word for five, as if to say ' a long 
four/ in somewhat the same way as the Aponegicrans, 
whose word for six is itawuna, can expand this into a word 
for seven, itawuuna, obviously thus meaning a ' long six.' 
In their earlier and simpler stages nothing can be more 
easy to comprehend than these, so to speak, pictorial 
modifications of words. It is true that writing, even with 
the aid of italics and capitals, ignores much of this sym- 
bolism in spoken language, but every child can see its use 
and meaning, in spite of the efforts of book-learning and 
school-teaching to set aside whatever cannot be expressed 
by their imperfect symbols, nor controlled by their narrow 
rules. But when we try to follow out to their full results 
these methods, at first so easy to trace and appreciate, we 
soon find them passing out of our grasp. The language of 
the Sahaptin Indians shows us a process of modifying 
words which is far from clear, and yet not utterly obscure. 
These Indians have a way of making;.a kind of disrespectful 
diminutive by changing the win a word to I ; thus twinwt 
means ‘ tailless,’ but to indicate particular smallness, or to 
express contempt, they make this into twilwt, pronounced 
with an appropriate change of tone ; and again, wana means 
‘ river,' but this is made into a diminutive wala by ‘ chang- 
ing n into I, giving the voice a different tone, putting the 
lips out in speaking, and keeping them suspended around 
the jaw.' Here we are told enough about the change of 
prommciation to guess at least how it could convey the 
notions of smallness and contempt. But it is less easy to 
follow the process by which the Mpongwe language turns 
an affirmative mto a negative verb by ‘ an intonation upon, 
or prolongation of the radical vowel,' tonda, to love, t^nda, 
not to love ; tdndo, to be loved, tQndo, not to be loved. So 
Yoruba, bdba, * a great thing,' bdba, ' a small thing,' con- 
trasted in a proverb, ‘ Baba bo, baba molle ' — ' A great 



matter puts a smaller out of sight/ Language is, in fact, 
full of phonetic modifications which justify a suspicion that 
S5niibolic sound had to do with their production, though it 
may be hard to say exactly how. 

Again, there is the familiar process of reduplication, simple 
or modified, which produces such forms as murmur y pitpat, 
helterskelter. This action, though much restricted in literary 
dialects, has such immense scope in the talk of children 
and savages that Professor Pott’s treatise on it^ has become 
incidentally one of the most valuable collections of facts ever 
made with relation to early stages of language. Now up to a 
certain point any child can see how and why such doubling is 
done, and how it always adds something to the original idea. 
It may make superlatives or otherwise intensify words, as in 
Polynesia loa ' long,’ lololoa * very long ’ ; Mandingo ding 
* a child,’ dingding * a very little child.’ It makes plurals, 
as Malay raja-raja * princes,’ orang-orang ‘ people.’ It 
adds numerals, as Mosquito walwal ’ four ’ (two-two), or 
distributes them, as Coptic ouai ouai ‘ singly ’ (one-one). 
These are cases where the motive of doubling is compara- 
tively easy to make out. As an example of cases much more 
difficult to comprehend may be taken the familiar reduplica- 
tion of the perfect tense, Greek ykyf>a<l>a from yptt</>w, Latin 
momordi from mordeo, Gothic haihald from haldan, * to 
hold.’ Reduplication is habitually used in imitative words 
to intensify them, and still more, to show that the sound is 
repeated or continuous. From the immense mass of such 
words we may take as instances the Botocudo hou-hou-hou- 
gitcha * to suck ’ (compare Tongan huhu ‘ breast ’), kiakti- 
kdck-kdck, * a butterfly ’ ; Quichua chiuiuiuiiiichi ' wind 
whistling in the trees ' ; Maori haruru * noise of wind ’ ; 
hohoro ’ hurry ’ ; Dayak kakakkaka ’ to go on laughing 
loud ’ ; Aino shiriushiriukanni ’ a rasp ’ ; Tamil murumuru 
' to murmur ' ; Akra ewiewiewiewie * he spoke repeatedly 

^ Pott, * Doppelung ( Reduplication, Gemination) als ein6s dcr wichtigsten 
Bildungsmittel der Sprache,' 1862. Frequent ubc has been here made of 
this work. 



and continually ' ; and so on, throughout the whole range of 
the languages of the world. 

The device of conveying different ideas of distance by the 
use of a graduated scale of vowels seems to me one of great 
philological interest, from the suggestive hint it gives of the 
proceedings of the language-makers in most distant regions 
of the world, working out in various ways a similar ingenious 
contrivance of expression by sound. A typical series is 
the Javan : iki * this ' (close by) ; ika ‘ that ' (at some 
distance) ; iku * that * (farther off). It is not likely that 
the following list nearly exhausts the whole number of cases 
in the languages of the world, for about half the number 
have been incidentally noted down by myself without any 
especial search, but merely in the course of looking over 
vocabularies of the lower races.^ 





Tamul . 
Dhimal . 

Ossetic . 
Magyar . 

ikt^ this ; ika, that (intermediate) ; iku, that. 
ao, there (at a short distance) ; eo, there (at a shorter 
distance) ; io, there (close at hand). 
atsy, there (not far off) ; etsy, there (nearer) ; itsy, 
this or these. 
ko, here ; ka, there. 
korera, these j karera, th(jy (those). 
ivanu, this ; uvanu, that (intermediate) ; avanuy 

i, this ; d, that. 

ih, this ; db, that. 

isho, ita, here ; usho, uta, there. 

iti, idong, this ; uti, udong, that [of things and 
persons respectively]. 
abri, this ; ubri, that. 
am, here ; um, there. 
ez, this ; az, that. 
apa, here ; apo, there. 

lesi, leso, lesiya abti, abo, abuya ; Ssc.= this, that, 
that (in the distance). 

^ For authorities see especially Pott, * Doppelung,’ p. 30, 47-49 ; W. v. 
Humboldt, * Kawi-Spr.’ vol. ii. p. 36 ; Max MUller in Bunsen, * Philos, of 
Univ. Hist.' vol. i. p. 329 ; Latham, * Comp. Phil.’ p. 200 ; and the gram- 
mars and dictionaries of the particular languages. The Guarani and Carib 
on authority of D’Orbigny, ‘ L'Homme Am^ricain,’ vol. ii. p. 268 ; Dhimal 
of Hodgson, ‘ Abor. of India,' p, 69, 79, 1 1 5 ; Colville Ind. of Wilson in 
‘ Tr. Eth. Soc.' vol. iv. p. 331 ; Botocudo of Martius, ‘ Gloss. Brasil.' 


Yoruba . . fttf, this ; niy that. 

Fernandian o/o, this $ ole, that. 

Tumalc . -re, this j ri, that. 

I i thou ; ngu, he. 

Grecnlandish . . uv, here, there (where one points to) ; iv, there, up 

there [found in comp.]. 

Sujelpa (Coleville Ind.), ax^, this ; ixU that. 

Sahaptin kina, here ; kuna, there. 

Mutsun . , ne, here ; nu, there. 

Tarahumara . ibe, here ; ahe, there. 

Guarani . . nde^ ne, thou ; ndi, ni, he. 

Botocudo . . ati, I ; oti, thou, you, (prep.) to. 

Carib . ne, thou ; ni, he. 

Chilian . . tva, vacbi, this ; tvey, veychi, that. 

It is obvious on inspection of this list of pronouns and 
adverbs that they have in some way come to have their 
vowels contrasted to match the contrast of here and there ^ 
this and that. Accident may sometimes account for such 
cases. For instance it is well known to philologists that 
our own this and that are pronouns partly distinct in their 
formation, thi-s being probably two pronouns run together, 
but yet the Dutch neuters dit * this,' and dat ‘ that,' have 
taken the appearance of a single form with contrasted 
vowels.^ But accident cannot account for the frequency of 
such words in pairs, and even in sets of three, in so many 
different languages. There must have been some common 
intention at work, and there is evidence that some of these 
languages do resort to a change of sound as a means of ex- 
pressing change of distance. Thus the language of Fernando 
Po can not only express ‘ this ' and * that ' by olo, ole, but it 
can even make a change of the pronunciation of the vowel 
distinguish between o boehe * this month,' and oh boehe, ‘that 
month.' In the same way the Grebo can make the difference 
between ‘ I ' and ‘ thou,' ‘ we,' and ‘ you,' ‘ solely by the 
intonation of the voice, which the final h of the second 
persons mdh and dh is intended to express,' 

md di, I eat j mdh di, thou eatest ; 
d di, we eat ; ah di, ye eat. 

^ Also Old High German diz and daz. 



The set of Zulu demonstratives which express the three 
distances of near, farther, farthest, are very complex, but a 
remark as to their use shows how thoroughly s5nnbolic 
sound enters into their nature. The Zulus not only say 
nansi, ' here is,' nanso, * there is,' nansiya, ' there is in 
the distance,' but they even express the greatness of this 
distance by the emphasis and prolongation of the ya. If we 
could discern a similar gradation of the vowels to express a 
corresponding gradation of distance throughout our list, the 
whole matter would be easier to explain ; but it is not so, 
the t- words for instance, are sometimes nearer and some- 
times farther off than the a-words. We can only judge that, 
as even children can see that a scale of vowels makes a most 
expressive scale of distances, many pronouns and adverbs in 
use in the world have probably taken their shape under the 
influence of this simple device, and thus there have arisen 
sets of what we may call contrasted or * differential ' 

How the differencing of words by change of vowels may 
be used to distinguish between the sexes, is well put in 
a remark of Professor Max Miille^'s : ‘ The distinction 
of gender ... is sometimd^ expressed in such a manner 
that we can only explain it by ascribing an expressive 
power to the more or less obscure sound of vowels. Ukko, 
in Finnic, is an old man ; akka, an old woman. ... In 
Mandshu chacha is mas. . . . cheche, femina. Again, ama, 
in Mandshu, is father ; erne, mother ; amcha, father-in-law, 
emche, mother-in-law.'^ The Coretii language of Brazil 
has another curiously contrasted pair of words tsdacko, 
* father,’ tsaacko * mother,' while the Carib has baba 
for father, and bibi for mother, and the Ibu of Africa has 
nna for father and nne for mother. This contrivance of 
distinguishing the male from the female by a difference of 
vowels is however but a small part of the process of for- 
mation which can be traced among such words as those 
for father and mother. Their consideration leads into 
1 Max Mailer, l.c. 

children's language. 


a very interesting philological region, that of * Children’s 

If we set down a few of the pairs of words which stand 
for ' father ' and ‘ mother ' in very different and distant 
languages — papa and mama ; Welsh, tad (dad) and mam ; 
Hungarian, atya and any a; Mandingo, fa and ba; Lummi 
(N. America), man and tan; Catoquina (S. America), payii 
and nayu; Watchandie (Australia), amo and ago — their 
contrast seems to lie in their consonants, while many other 
pairs differ totally, like Hebrew ab and im; Kuki, p'ha and 
noo; Kayan, amay and inei; Tarahumara, nono and jeje. 
Words of the class of papa and mama, occurring in remote 
parts of the world, were once freely used as evidence of a 
common origin of the languages in which they were found 
alike. But Professor Buschmann’s paper on ' Nature- 
Sound,’ published in 1853, ‘ effectually overthrew this 
argument, and settled the view that such coincidence 
might arise again and again by independent production. 
It was clearly of no use to argue that Carib and English 
were allied because the word papa, ‘ father,' belongs to 
both, or Hottentot ancj English because both use mama for 
' mother,’ seeing that these childish articulations may be 
used in just the opposite way, for the Chilian word for 
mother is papa, and the Tlatskanai for father is mama. 
Yet the choice of easy little words for ‘ father ’ and 
' mother ' does not seem to have been quite indiscriminate. 
The immense list of such words collected by Buschmann 
shows that the types pa and ta, with the similar forms ap 
and at, preponderate in the world as names for ‘father,’ 
while ma and na, am and an, preponderate as names for 
‘ mother.’ His explanation of this state of things as 
affected by direct symbolism choosing the hard soimd for the 
father, and the gentler for the mother, has very likely truth 
in it, but it must not be pushed too far. It cannot be, for 

^ J. C. E. Buschmann, ‘ Ucber den Naturlaut,* Berlin, 1853; and in 
‘Abh. dcr K. Akad. d. Wissensch,’ 1852. An English trans^ in ‘Proc. Philo- 
« logical Society/ vol. vi. See De Brosses, ‘ Form, des L.,’ vol. i. p. 2i i. 


instance, the same principle of symbolism which leads the 
Welshmen to say tad for ‘ father ' and mam for ‘ mother,' 
and the Indian of British Columbia to say maan, * father ' 
and taan, * mother,* or the Georgian to say mama * father * 
and deda * mother.* Yet I have not succeeded in finding 
an3where our familiar papa and mama exactly reversed in 
one and the same language ; the nearest approach to it 
that I can give is from the island of Meang, where mama 
meant ' father, man,* and bahi, * mother, woman. 

Between the nursery words papa and mama and the more 
formal father and mother there is an obvious resemblance in 
sound. What, then, is the origin of these words father and 
mother ? Up to a certain point their history is clear. They 
belong to the same group of organized words with vater and 
mutter t pater and mater, rrarrip and p-nrrip^ pitar and mdtar, 
and other similar forms through the Indo-European family 
of languages. There is no doubt that all these pairs of names 
are derived from an ancient and common Aryan source, and 
when they are traced back as far as possible towards that 
source, they appear to have sprung from a pair of words 
which may be roughly called patar matar, and which 
were formed by adding tar, the suffix of the actor, to the 
verb-roots pa and ma. There being two appropriate Sanskrit 
verbs pd and md, it is possible to etymologize the two words 
as patar, * protector,' and matar, ' producer.* Now this 
pair of Aryan words must have been very ancient, lying back 
at the remote common source from which forms parallel to 
our English father and mother passed into Greek and 
Persian, Norse and Armenian, thus holding fixed type 
through the eventful course of Indo-European history. Yet, 
ancient as these words are, they were no doubt preceded 
by simpler rudimentary words of the children's language, 
for it is not likely that the primitive Aryans did without 
baby-words for father and mother until they had an 
organized system of adding suffixes to verb-roots to express 

^ One family of languages, the Athapascan, contains both appd and mama 
as terms for ‘ father,* in the Tahkali and Tlatskanai. 

children’s language. 


such notions as ' protector ’ or ‘ producer.’ Nor can it 
be supposed that it was by mere accident that the root- 
words thus chosen happened to be the very sounds pa and 
ma, whose types so often occur in the remotest parts of the 
world as names for ‘ father ’ and ‘ mother.’ Prof. Adolphe 
Pictet makes shift to account for the coincidence thus : he 
postulates first the pair of forms pd and md as Aryan verb- 
roots of unknown origin, meaning * to protect * and ‘ to 
create,’ next another pair of forms pa and ma, children’s 
words commonly used to denote father and mother, and 
lastly he combines the two by supposing that the* root- 
verbs pd and md were chosen to form the Indo-European 
words for parents, because of their resemblance to the 
familiar baby- words already in use. This circuitous pro- 
cess at any rate saves those sacred monosyllables, the 
Sanskrit verb-roots, from the disgrace of an assignable 
origin. Yet those who remember that these verb-roots are 
only a set of crude forms in use in one particular language 
of the world at one particular period of its development, 
may account for the facts more simply and more thoroughly. 
It is a fair guess that the ubiquitous pa and ma of the 
children’s language were the original forms ; that they were 
used in an early period of Aryan speech as indiscriminately 
substantive and verb, just as our modern English, which so 
often reproduces the most rudimentary linguistic processes, 
can form from the noun ' father ’ a verb ' to father ; ' and 
that lastly they became verb-roots, whence the words 
patar and matar were formed by the addition of the 

The baby-names for parents must not be studied as 
though they stood alone in language. They are only import- 
ant members of a great class of words, belonging to all times 
and countries within our experience, and forming a chil- 
dren’s language, whose common character is due to its con- 

^ Sec Pott, * Indo-Ger. Wurzclworterb.* s.v. ‘ pa * ; Bdhtlingk and Roth, 

‘ Sanskrit-Worterb,* s. v. matar; Pictet, * Origin cs Indo-Europ.,* part ii. 
p. 349 ; Max Miillcr, * Lectures," 2nd series, p. 212. 



ceming itself with the limited set of ideas in which little 
children are interested, and expressing these ideas by the 
limited set of articulations suited to the child's first attempts 
to talk. This peculiar language is marked quite character- 
istically among the low savage tribes of Australia ; mammafv 

* father/ ngangan ' mother/ and by metaphor ' thumb/ 
‘ great toe ' (as is more fully explained in jinnamamman 

* great toe/ i.e. foot's father), iammin ' grandfather or 
grandmother/ hah-ba ' bad, foolish, childish,' bee-bee, beep 
‘ breast,' pappi * father,' pappa ‘ young one, pup, whelp,' 
(whence is grammatically formed the verb papparniti * to be- 
come a young one, to be born.' Or if we look for examples 
from India, it does not matter whether we take them from 
non-Hindu or Hindu languages, for in baby-language all 
races are on one footing. Thus Tamil appd ' father,' 
ammd * mother,’ Bodo aphd ‘ father,' dyd ‘ mother ; ' the 
Kocch group ndnd and ndni * paternal grandfather and 
grandmother,' mdmd * uncle,' dddd * cousin,’ may be set 
beside Sanskrit tata ‘ father,' nand * mother,’ and the 
Hindustani words of the same class, of which some are 
familiar to the English ear by bein^ naturalized in Anglo- 
Indian talk, bdbd ' father,' bdbd * child, prince, Mr.,' bibt 

* lady,' dadd * nurse ' {dyd * nurse ' seems borrowed from 
Portuguese). Such words are continually coming fresh into 
existence everywhere, and the law of natural selection 
determines their fate. The great mass of the nanas and 
dada*s of the nursery die out almost as soon as made. 
Some few take more root and spread over large districts as 
accepted nursery words, and now and then a curious 
philologist makes a collection of them. Of such, many are 
obvious mutilations of longer words, as French faire dodo 
‘ to sleep ' (dormir), Brandenburg wiwi, k common cradle 
lullaby (wiegen). Others, whatever their origin, fall, in 
consequence of the small variety of articulations out of 
which they must be chosen, into a curiously indiscriminate 
and unmeaning mass, as Swiss bobo ‘ a scratch ; ' bambam 

* all gone ; ' Italian bobd ' somevhing to drink,' gogo 

children’s language. 


' little boy/ for dede * to play.' These are words quoted 
by Pott, and for English examples nana ' nurse,' taia ! 

* good-bye ! ' may serve. But all 6a6y-words, as this very 
name proves, do not stop short even at this stage of pub- 
licity. A small proportion of them establish themselves iix 
the ordinary talk of grown-up men and women, and when 
they have once made good their place as constituents of 
general language, they may pass on by inheritance from age 
to age. Such examples as have been here quoted of nursery 
words give a clue to the origin of a mass of names in the 
most diverse languages, for father, mother, grandmother, 
aunt, child, breast, toy, doll, &c. The negro of Fernando 
Po who uses the word bubboh for ' a little boy,' is on equal 
terms with the German who uses bube; the Congo-man who 
uses tata for ‘ father ' would understand how the same 
word could be used in classic Latin for * father,' and 
in mediaeval Latin for ‘ pedagogue ; ' the Carib and the 
Caroline Islander agree with the Englishman that papa is 
a suitable word to express * father,' and then it only 
remains to carry on the word, and make the baby-language 
name the priests of the Eastern Church and the great 
Papa of the Western. At the same time the evidence 
explains the indifference with which, out of the small stock 
of available materials, the same sound does duty for the 
most different ideas ; why mama means here ‘ mother,* 
there ‘ father,' there * uncle,' maman here ' mother,' there 

* father-in-law,' dada here * father, there ' nurse,' there 

' breast,’ tata here ‘ father,' there ' son.' A single group 
of words may serve to show the character of this peculiar 
region of language : Blackfoot Indian ninnah * father ; * 
Greek * uncle,' vkwa ' aunt ; ' Zulu nina, Sangir 

nina, Malagasy nini 'mother;' Javan nini ‘grandfather 
or grandmother ; ' Vayu nini ‘ paternal aunt ; ' Darien 
Indian ninah ‘ daughter ; ' Spanish nino, nina ‘ child ; ' 
Italian mwna 'little girl;' Milanese ninin ‘bed;' Italian 
ninnare ' to rock the cradle.' 

In this way a dozen easy child's articulations, ba*s and 


na*s, ti*s and de*s, pa's and nta's, serve almost as indiscrimi- 
nately to express a dozen child's ideas as though they had 
been shaken in a bag and pulled out at random to express 
the notion that came first, doll or uncle, nurse or grand- 
father. It is obvious that among words cramped to such 
scanty choice of articulate sounds, speculations as to deriva- 
tion niust be more than usually unsafe. Looked at from 
this point of view, children's language may give a valuable 
lesson to the philologist. He has before him a kind of 
language, formed, under peculiar conditions, and showing 
the weak points of his method of philological research, only 
exaggerated into extraordinary distinctness. In ordinary 
language, the difficulty of connecting sound with sense lies 
in great measure in the inability of a small and rigid set of 
articulations to express an interminable variety of tones and 
noises. In children's language, a still more scanty set of 
articulations fails yet more to render these distinctly. The 
difficulty of finding the derivation of words lies in great 
measure in the use of more or less similar root-sounds for 
most heterogeneous purposes. To assume that two words 
of different meanings, just because They sound somewhat 
alike, must therefore have a common origin, is even in 
ordinary language the great source of bad etymology. But 
in children's language the theory of root-sounds fairly 
breaks down. Few would venture to assert, for instance, 
that papa and pap have a common derivation or a common 
root. All that we can safely say of connexion between 
them is that they are words related by common acceptance 
in the nursery language. As $uch, they are well marked in 
ancient Rome as in modem England : papas ' nutricius, 
nutritor,' pappus * senex ; ' ‘ cum cibum et potum buas ac 
papas dicunt, et matrem mammam, patrem tatam (or 
papam).' ^ 

From children's language, moreover, we have striking 
proof of the power of consensus of society, in establishing 
words in settled use without their carrying traces of inherent 
^ Facciolati, ‘ Lexicon ; * Varro, ap. Nonn., ii. 97. 

children's language. 


expressiveness. It is true that children are intimately ac- 
quainted with the use of emotional and imitative sound, and 
their vocal intercourse largely consists of such expression. 
The effects of this are in some degree discernible in the 
class of words we are considering. But it is obvious that 
the leading principle of their formation is not to adopt 
words distinguished by the expressive character of their 
sound, but to choose somehow a fixed word to answer a 
given purpose. To do this, different languages have chosen 
similar articulations to express the most diverse and oppo- 
site ideas. Now in the language of grown-up people, it is 
clear that social consensus has worked in the same way. 
Even if the extreme supposition be granted, that the ulti- 
mate origin of every word of language lies in inherently 
expressive sound, this only partly affects the case, for it 
would have to be admitted that, in actual languages, most 
words have so far departed in sound or sense from this 
originally expressive stage, that to all intents and purposes 
they might at first have been arbitrarily chosen. The main 
principle of language has been, not to preserve traces of 
original sound-significaticn for the benefit of future etymo- 
logists, but to fix elements of language to serve as counters 
for practical reckoning of ideas. In this process much 
original expressiveness has no doubt disappeared beyond 
all hope of recovery. 

Such are some of the ways in which vocal sounds seem to 
have commended themselves to the mind of the word-maker 
as fit to express his meaning, and to have been used accor- 
dingly. I do not think that the evidence here adduced 
justifies the setting-up of what is called the Inter] ectional 
and Imitative Theory as a complete solution of the problem 
of original language. Valid as this theory proves itself 
within limits, it would be incautious to accept a hypothesis 
which can perhaps satisfactorily account for a twentieth of 
the crude forms in any language, as a certain and absolute 
explanation of the nineteen-twentieths whose origin remains 
doubtful. A key must unlock more doors than this, to be 


taken as the master-key. Moreover, some special points 
which have come under consideration in these chapters tend 
to show the positive necessity of such caution in theorizing. 
Too narrow a theory of the application of sound to sense 
may fail to include the varied devices which the languages 
of different regions turn to account. It is thus with the 
distinction in meaning of a word by its musical accent, and 
the distinction of distance by graduated vowels. These are 
ingenious and intelligible contrivances, but they hardly 
seem directly emotional or imitative in origin. A safer way 
of putting the theory of a natural origin of language is 
to postulate the original utterance of ideas in what may 
be called self-expressive sounds, without defining closely 
whether their expression lay in emotional tone, imitative 
noise, contrast of accent or vowel or consonant, or other 
phonetic quality. Even here, exception of unknown and 
perhaps enormous extent must be made for sounds chosen 
by individuals to express some notion, from motives which 
even their own minds failed to discern, but which sounds 
nevertheless made good their footing in the language of the 
family, the tribe, and the nation., There may be many 
modes even of recognizable phonetic expression, unknown 
to us as yet. So far, however, as I have been able to trace 
them here, such modes have in common a claim to belong 
not exclusively to the scheme of this or that particular 
dialect, but to wide-ranging principles of formation of lan- 
guage. Their examples are to be drawn with equal cogency 
from Sanskrit or Hebrew, from the nursery-language of 
Lombardy, or the half-Indian, half-European jargon of 
Vancouver's Island; and wherever they are found, they 
help to furnish groups of sound-words — words which have 
not lost the traces of their first expressive origin, but still 
carry their direct significance plainly stamped upon them. 
In fact, the time has now come for a substantial basis to be 
laid for Generative Philology. A classified collection of 
words with any strong claim to be self-expressive should be 
brought together out of the thousand or so of recognized 


languages and dialects of the world. In such a Dictionary 
of Sound-Words, half the cases cited might very likely be 
worthless, but the collection would afford the practical 
means of expurgating itself ; for it would show on a large 
scale what particular sounds have manifested their fitness 
to convey particular ideas, by having been repeatedly 
chosen among different races to convey them. 

Attempts to explain as far as may be the primary forma- 
tion of speech, by tracing out in detail such processes as 
have been here described, are likely to increase our know- 
ledge by sure and steady steps wherever imagination does 
not get the better of sober comparison of facts. But there 
is one side of this problem of the Origin of Language on 
which such studies have by no means an encouraging effect. 
Much of the popular interest in such matters is centred in 
the question, whether the known languages of the world 
have their source in one or many primaeval tongues. On 
this subject the opinions of the philologists who have com- 
pared the greatest number of languages are utterly at 
variance, nor has any one brought forward a body of philo- 
logical evidence strong and direct enough to make anything 
beyond mere vague opinion justifiable. Now such pro- 
cesses as the growth of imitative or symbolic words form a 
part, be it small or large, of the Origin of Language, but 
they are by no means restricted to any particular place or 
period, and are indeed more or less in activity now. Their 
operation on any two dialects of one language will be to 
introduce in each a number of new and independent words, 
and words even suspected of having been formed in this 
direct way become valueless as proof of genealogical con- 
nexion between the languages in which they are found. 
The test of such genealogical connexion must, in fact, be 
generally narrowed to such words or grammatical forms 
as have become so far conventional in sound and sense, 
that we cannot suppose two tribes to have arrived at 
them independently, and therefore consider that both must 
have inherited them from a common source. Thus the 


introduction of new sound-words tends to make it practi- 
cally of less and less consequence to a language what its 
original stock of words at starting may have been ; and 
the philologist's extension of his knowledge of such direct 
formations must compel him to strip off more and more 
of any language, as being possibly of later growth, before 
he can set himself to argue upon such a residuum as may 
have come by direct inheritance from times of primaeval 

In concluding this survey, some general considerations 
suggest themselves as to the nature and first beginnings of 
language. In studying the means of expression among 
men in stages of mental culture far below our own, one of 
our first needs is to clear our minds of the kind of supersti- 
tious veneration with which articulate speech has so com- 
monly been treated, as though it were not merely the 
principal but the sole means of uttering thought. We must 
cease to measure the historical importance of emotional 
exclamations, of gesture-signs, and of picture-writing, by 
their comparative insignificance in modern civilized life, but 
must bring ourselves to associate the ai ticulate words of the 
dictionary in one group with cries and gestures and pictures, 
as being all of them means of manifesting outwardly the 
inward workings of the mind. Such an admission, it must 
be observed, is far from being a mere detail of scientific 
classification. It has really a most important bearing on 
the problem of the Origin of Language. For as the 
reasons are mostly dark to us, why particular words are 
currently used to express particular ideas, language has 
come to be looked upon as a mystery, and either occult 
philosophical causes have been called in to explain its 
phenomena, or else the endowment of man with the facul- 
ties of thought and utterance has been deemed insufficient, 
and a special revelation has been demanded to put into his 
mouth the vocabulary of a particular language. In the 
debate which has been carried on for ages over this much- 
vexed problem, the saying in the ‘ Kratylos ' comes back to 


our minds again and again, where Sokrates describes the 
etymologists who release themselves from their difficulties 
as to the origin of words by saying that the first words were 
divinely made, and therefore right, just as the tragedians, 
when they are in perplexity, fly to their machinery and 
bring in the gods.^ Now I think that those who soberly 
contemplate the operation of cries, groans, laughs, and 
other emotional utterances, as to which some considerations 
have been here brought forward, will admit that, at least,, 
our present crude understanding of this kind of expression 
would lead us to claiss it among the natural actions of man's 
body and mind. Certainly, no one who understands any- 
thing of the gesture-language or of picture-writing would 
be justified in regarding either as due to occult causes, or 
to any supernatural interference with the course of man's 
intellectual development. Their cause evidently lies in 
natural operations of the human mind, not such as were 
effective in some long-past condition of humanity and have 
since disappeared, but in processes existing amongst us, 
which we can understand and even practise for ourselves. 
When we study the pictures and gestures with which 
savages and the deaf-and-dumb express their minds, we can 
mostly see at a glance the direct relation between the out- 
ward sign and the inward thought which it makes manifest. 
We may see the idea of ‘ sleep ' shown in gesture by the 
head with shut eyes, leant heavily against the open hand ; 
or the idea of * running ' by the attitude of the runner, 
with chest forward, mouth half open, elbows and shoulders 
well back ; or ‘ candle ' by the straight forefinger held up, 
and as it were blown out ; or ‘ salt ' by the imitated act 
of sprinkling it with thumb and finger. The figures of the 
child's picture-book, the sleeper and the runner, the candle 
and the salt-cellar, show their purport by the same sort of 
evident relation between thought and sign. We so far 
understand the nature of these modes of utterance, that we 
are ready ourselves to express thought after thought by such 

^ Plato, ‘ CratyluH ’ 90. 


m^ans, so that those who see our signs shall perceive our 

When, however, encouraged by our ready success in 
making out the nature and action of these ruder methods, 
we turn to the higher art of speech, and ask how such and 
such words have come to express such and such thoughts, 
we find ourselves face to face with an immense problem, as 
yet but in small part solved. The success of investigation 
has indeed been enough to encourage us to push vigorously 
forward in the research, but the present explorations have 
not extended beyond comers and patches of an elsewhere 
unknown field. Still the results go far to warrant us in 
associating expression by gestures and pictures with articu- 
late language as to principles of original formation, much as 
men associate them in actual life by using gesture and word 
at once. Of course, articulate speech, in its far more 
complex and elaborate development, has taken up devices 
to which the more simple and rude means of communication 
offer nothing comparable. Still, language, so far as its 
constitution is understood, seems to have been developed 
like writing or music, like hunting o<r fire-making, by the 
exercise of purely human faculties in purely human ways. 
This state of things by no means belongs exclusively to 
rudimentary philological operations, such as the choosing 
expressive sounds to name corresponding ideas by. In the 
higher departments of speech, where words already existing 
are turned to account to express new meanings and shade 
off new distinctions, we find these ends attained by con- 
trivances ranging from extreme dexterity down to utter 
clumsiness. For a single instance, one great means of 
giving new meaning to old sound is metaphor, which 
transfers ideas from hearing to seeing, from touching to 
thinking, from the concrete of one kind to the abstract of 
another, and can thus make almost anything in the world 
help to describe or suggest anything else. What the 
German philosopher described as the relation of a cow to a 
comet, that both have tails, is enough and more than 


enough for the language-maker. It struck the Australians, 
when they saw a European book, that it opened and shut 
like a mussel-shell, and they began accordingly to call 
books ' mussels ' [muyum). The sight of a steam engine 
may suggest a whole group of such transitions in our own 
language ; the steam passes along ' fifes ' or ‘ trumpets/ 
that is, pipes or tubes, and enters by ' folding-doors ' or 
%ndves, to push a ‘ pestle ' or piston up and down in a 
' roller ' or cylinder, while the light pours from the furnace 
in ‘ staves ' or ‘ poles,' that is, in rays or beams. The 
dictionaries are full of cases compared with which such as 
these are plain and straightforward. Indeed, the processes 
by which words have really come into existence may often 
enough remind us of the game of ' What is my thought 
like ? ' When one knows the answer, it is easy enough to 
see what junketting and cathedral canons have to do with 
reeds ; Latin juncus ' a reed,' Low Latin juncata, * cheese 
made in a reed-basket,' Italian giuncata ‘ cream cheese in 
a rush frail,' French joncade and English junket, which 
are preparations of cream, and lastly junketting parties 
where such delicacies are eaten ; Greek Kawr), * reed, cane,* 
xavwv, ' measure, rule,' thence canonicus, ' a clerk under 
the ecclesiastical rule or canon.' But who could guess the 
history of these words, who did not happen to know these 
intermediate links ? 

Yet there is about this process of derivation a thoroughly 
human artificial character. When we know the whole facts 
of any case, we can generally understand it at once, and see 
that we might have done the same ourselves had it come in 
our way. And the same thing is true of the processes of 
making sound-words detailed in these chapters. Such a 
view is, however, in no way inconsistent with the attempt 
to generalize upon these processes, and to state them as 
phases of the development of language among mankind. If 
certain men under certain circumstances produce certain 
results, then we may at least expect that other men much 
resembling these and placed under roughly similar circum- 


stances will produce more or less like results ; and this has 
been shown over and over again in these pages to be what 
really happens. Now Wilhelm von Humboldt's view that 
language is an ‘ organism ' has been considered a great 
step in philological speculation ; and so far as it has led 
students to turn their minds to the search after general 
laws, no doubt it has been so. But it has also caused an 
increase of vague thinking and talking, and thereby .no 
small darkening of counsel. Had it been meant to say that 
human thought, language, and action generally, are organic 
in their nature, and work under fixed laws, this would be a 
very different matter ; but this is distinctly not what is 
meant, and the very object of calling language an organism 
is to keep it apart from mere human arts and contrivances. 
It was a hateful thing to Humboldt's mind to ' bring down 
speech to a mere operation of the understanding.' ' Man,' 
he says, ' does not so much form language, as discern with 
a kind of joyous wonder its developments, coming forth as 
of themselves.' Yet, if the practical shifts by which words 
are shaped or applied to fit new meanings are not devised by 
an operation of the understanding^ we ought consistently to 
carry the stratagems of the soldier in the field, or the con- 
trivances of the workman at his bench, back into the dark 
regions of instinct and involuntary action. That the actions 
of individual men combine to produce results which may be 
set down in those general statements of fact which we call 
laws, may be stated once again as one of the main proposi- 
tions of the Science of Culture. But the nature of a fact is 
not altered by its being classed in common with others of 
the same kind, and a man is not less the intelligent inventor 
of a new word or a new metaphor, because twenty other 
intelligent inventors elsewhere may have fallen on a similar 

The theory that the original forms of language are to be 
referred to a low or savage condition of culture among the 
remotely ancient human race, stands in general consistency 
with the known facts of philology. The causes which have 


produced language, so far as they are understood, are 
notable for that childlike simplicity of operation which 
befits the infancy of human civilization. The ways in 
which sounds are in the first instance chosen and arranged 
to express ideas, are practical expedients at the level of 
nursery philosophy. A child of five years old could catch 
the meaning of imitative sounds, interjectional words,, 
symbolism of sex or distance by contrast of vowels. Jiist 
as no one is likely to enter into the real nature of mytho- 
logy who has not the keenest appreciation of nursery 
tales, so the spirit in which we guess riddles and play at 
children's games is needed to appreciate the lower phases of 
language. Such a state of things agrees with the opinion 
that such rudimentary speech had its origin among men 
while in a childlike intellectual condition, and thus the self- 
expressive branch of savage language affords valuable 
materials for the problem of primitive speech. If we look 
back in imagination to an early period of human inter- 
course, where gesture and self-expressive utterance may 
have had a far greater comparative importance than among 
ourselves, such a <ionception introduces no new element 
into the problem, for a state of things more or less answer- 
ing to this is described among certain low savage tribes. If 
we turn from such self-expressive utterance, to that part of 
articulate language which carries its sense only by tradi- 
tional and seemingly arbitrary custom, we shall find no 
contradiction to the hypothesis. Sound carrying direct 
meaning may be taken up as an element of language^ 
keeping its first significance recognizable to nations yet 
unborn. But it may far more probably become by wear of 
sound and shift of sense an expressionless symbol, such as 
might have been chosen in pure arbitrariness — a philo- 
logical process to which the vocabularies of savage dialects 
bear full witness. In the course of the development of 
language, such traditional words with merely an inherited 
meaning have in no small measure driven into the back- 
ground the self-expressive words, just as the Eastern 


figures 2, 3, 4, which are not self-expressive, have driven 
into the background the Roman numerals II, III, IIII, 
which are — this, again, is an operation which has its place 
in savage as in cultivated speech. Moreover, to look 
closely at language as a practical means of expressing 
thought, is to face evidence of no slight bearing on the 
history of civilization. We come back to the fact, so full 
of suggestion, that the languages of the world represent 
substantially the same intellectual art, the higher nations 
indeed gaining more expressive power than the lowest 
tribes, yet doing this not by introducing new and more 
effective central principles, but by mere addition and 
improvement in detail. The two great methods of naming 
thoughts and stating their relation to one another, viz., 
metaphor and syntax, belong to the infancy of human ex- 
pression, and are as thoroughly at home in the language of 
savages as of philosophers. If it be argued that this 
similarity in principles of language is due to savage tribes 
having descended from higher culture, carrying down with 
them in their speech the relics of their former excellence, 
the answer is that linguistic expedients are actually worked 
out with as much originality, and more extensively if not 
more profitably, among savages than among cultured men. 
Take for example the Algonquin system of compounding 
words, and the vast Esquimaux scheme of grammatical 
inflexion. Language belongs in essential principle both to 
low grades and high of civilization ; to which should its 
origin be attributed ? An answer may be had by comparing 
the methods of language with the work it has to do. Take 
language all in all over the world, it is obvious that the 
processes by which words are made and adapted have far 
less to do with systematic arrangement and scientific classi- 
fication, than with mere rough and ready ingenuity and the 
great rule of thumb. Let any one whose vocation it is to 
realize philosophical or scientific conceptions and to express 
them in words, ask himself whether ordinary language is an 
instrument planned for such purposes. Of course it is not. 



It is hard to say which is the more striking, the want of 
scientific system in the expression of thought by words, or 
the infinite cleverness of detail by which this imperfection 
is got over, so that he who has an idea does somehow make 
shift to get it clearly in words before his own and other 
minds. The language by which a nation with highly 
developed art and knowledge and sentiment must express 
its thoughts on these subjects, is no apt machine devised 
for such special work, but an old barbaric engine added to 
and altered, patched and tinkered into some' sort of capa- 
bility. Ethnography reasonably accounts at once for the 
immense power and the manifest weakness of language as a 
means of expressing modem educated thought, by treating 
it as an original product of low culture, gradually adapted 
by ages of evolution and selection, to answer more or less 
sufficiently the requirements of modem civilization. 



Ideas of Number derived from experience — State of Arithmetic among un- 
civilized races — Small extent of Numeral-words among low tribes — 
Counting by fingers and toes — Hand-numerals show derivation of Verbal 
reckoning from Gesture-counting — Etymology of Numerals — Quinary, 
Decimal, and Vigesimal notations of the world derived from counting 
on fingers and toes — Adoption of foreign Numeral-words — Evidence of 
development of Arithmetic from a low original level of Culture. 

Mr. J. S. Mill, in his ‘ System of Logic/ takes occa- 
sion to examine the foundations of the art of arithmetic. 
Against Dr, Whewell, who had maintained that such pro- 
positions as that two and Ihree piake five are ' necessary 
truths/ containing in them an element of certainty beyond 
that which mere experience can give, Mr. Mill asserts that 
‘ two and one are equal to three ' expresses merely * a 
truth known to us by early and constant experience : an 
inductive truth ; and such truths are the foundation of 
the science of Number. The fundamental truths of that 
science all rest on the evidence of sense ; they are proved 
by showing to our eyes and our fingers that any given 
number of objects, ten balls for example, may by sepa- 
ration and re-arrangement exhibit to our senses all the 
different sets of numbers the sum of which is equal to ten. 
All the improved methods of teaching arithmetic to chil- 
dren proceed on a knowledge of this fact. All who wish 
to carry the child's mind along with them in learning 
arithmetic ; all who wish to teach numbers, and not mere 
ciphers — now teach it through the evidence of the senses. 



in the manner we have described/ Mr. argument is 
• taken from the mental conditions of people among whom 
there exists a highly advanced arithmetic. The subject 
is also one to be advantageously studied from the eth- 
nographer's point of view. The examination of the 
methods of numeration in use among the lower races not 
only fully bears out Mr. Mill's view, that our knowledge 
of the relations of numbers is based on actual experi- 
ment, but it enables us to trace the art of counting to 
its source, and to ascertain by what steps it arose in 
the world among particular races, and probably among 
all mankind. 

In our advanced system of numeration, no limit is known 
either to largeness or smallness. The philosopher cannot 
conceive the formation of any quantity so large or of any 
atom so small but the arithmetician can keep pace with 
him, and can define it in a simple combination of written 
signs. But as we go downwards in the scale of culture, we 
find that even where the current language has terms for 
hundreds and thousands, there is less and less power of 
forming a distinct notionp of large numbers, the reckoner is 
sooner driven to his fingers, and there increases among 
the most intelligent that numerical indefiniteness that we 
notice among children — if there were not a thousand people 
in the street there were certainly a hundred, at any rate 
there were twenty. Strength in arithmetic does not, it is 
true, vary regularly with the level of general culture. 
Some savage or barbaric peoples are exceptionally skilled 
in numeration. The Tonga Islanders really have native 
numerals up to 100,000. Not content even with this, the 
French explorer Labillardidre pressed them farther and 
obtained numerals up to 1000 billions, which were duly 
printed, but proved on later examination to be partly non- 
sense-words and partly indelicate expressions,' so that the 
supposed series of high numerals forms at once a little 
vocabulary of Tongan indecency, and a warning as to the 

^ Mariner, * Tonga Itlands,* vol. ii. p. 390. 


probable results of taking down unchecked answers from 
question-worried savages. In West Africa, a lively and 
continual habit of bargaining has developed a great power 
of arithmetic, and little children already do feats of compu- 
tation with their heaps of cowries. Among the Yorubas of 
Abeokuta, to say ' you don't know nine times nine ' is 
actually an insulting way of saying ‘ you are a dunce. 
This is an extraordinary proverb, when we compare it with 
the standard which our corresponding European sayings set 
for the limits of stupidity : the German says, * he can 
scarce count five ' ; the Spaniard, ' I will tell you how 
many make five ' (cuantos son cinco) ; and we have the 
same saw in England : — 

‘. . . as sure as Tm alive, 

And knows how many beans make five.’ 

A Siamese law-court will not take the evidence of a witness 
who cannot count or reckon figures up to ten ; a rule which 
reminds us of the ancient custom of Shrewsbury, where a 
person was deemed of age when he knew how to count up to 
twelve pence.* 

Among the lowest living men, the savages of the South 
American forests and the deserts of Australia, 5 is actually 
found to be a number which the languages of some tribes do 
not know by a special word. Not only have travellers 
failed to get from them names for numbers above 2, 3, or 
4, but the opinion that these are the real limits of their 
numeral series is strengthened by the use of their highest 
known number as an indefinite term for a great many. 
Spix and Martins say of tfie low tribes of Brazil, ‘ They 
count commonly by their finger joints, so up to three only. 
Any larger number they express by the word many." 

^ Crowthcr, * Yoruba Vocab.’ ; Burton, * W. & W. from W. Africa,’ p. 253 . 

‘ O daju danu, o ko mo essan mcssan. — ^You (may seem) very clever, (but) 
you can’t tell 9 X 9.* 

• Low in ^ Journ. Ind. Archip.’ vol. i. p. 408 ; * Year-Books Edw I.’ 
(xx.-i.) ed. Horwood, p. 220. 

• Spix and Martius, * Reise in Brazilien,’ p. 387. 



In a Puri vocabulary the numerals are given as i. omi; 
2. curiri ; 3. prica, ' many ' : in a Botocudo vocabular5\ 

1. mokenam ; 2, uruhii, ' many.' The numeration of 
the Tasmanians is, according to Jorgensen, i. parmery ; 

2. calabawa ; more than 2, cardia ; as Backhouse puts it, 
they count ‘one, two, plenty;' but an observer who 
had specially good opportunities, Dr. Milligan, gives their 
numerals up to 5. puggana, which we shall recur to.^ Mr. 
Oldfield (writing especially of Western tribes) says, ‘ The 
New Hollanders have no names for numbers beyond two. 
The Watchandie scale of notation is co-ote-on (one), u-tau- 
ra (two), bool-iha (many), and booUtha-bat (very many). 
If absolutely required to express the numbers three or four, 
they say u-tar-ra cooAe-00 to indicate the former number, 
and u-tar-ra u-tar-ra to denote the latter.' That is to say, 
their names for one, two, three, and four, are equivalent to 
' one,' ‘ two,' ‘ two-one,' ‘ two-two.' Dr. Lang's numerals 
from Queensland are just the same in principle, though the 
words are different : i. ganar ; 2. burla; 3. burla-ganar, 

* two-one ' ; 4. burla-burla, * two-two ' ; korumba, * more than 
four, much, great.' Jhe Kamilaroi dialect, though with 
the same 2 as the last, improves upon it by having an 
independent 3, and with the aid of this it reckons as far as 
6 : I. mal ; 2. bularr ; 3. guliba ; 4. bularr-bularr , * two- 
two ' ; 5. bulaguliba, ‘ two-three ' ; 6. guliba-guliba ‘ three- 
three.' These Australian examples are at least evidence of 
a very scanty as well as clumsy numeral system among 
certain tribes.* Yet here again higher forms will have to 
be noticed, which in one district at least carry the native 
numerals up to 15 or 20. 

It is not to be supposed, because a savage tribe has 
no current words for numbers above 3 or 5 or so, that 
therefore they cannot count beyond this. It appears that 

^ * Tasmanian Journal/ vol. i. ; Backhouse, * Nanr/ p. 104 ; Milligan in 

* Papers, &c., Roy. Soc. Tasmania,* vol. iii. part ii. 1859. 

* Oldfield in ‘ Tr. Eth. Soc.’ ; vol. iii. p. 291 ; Lang, ‘ Queensland,* p. 433 j 
*Latham, Comp. Phil.* p. 352. Other terms in Bonwick, 1 . c. 

:244 the art of COUNTING. 

they can and do count considerably farther, but it is by 
/falling back on a lower and ruder method of expression 
than speech — the gesture-language. The place in in- 
tellectual development held by the art of counting on 
•one's fingers, is well marked in the description which 
Massieu, the Ahh 6 Sicard's deaf-and-dumb pupil, gives of 
his notion of numbers in his comparatively untaught 
childhood: *I knew the numbers before my instruction, 
my fingers had taught me them. I did not know the 
ciphers ; I counted on my fingers, and when the nximber 
passed lo I made notches on a bit of wood.'^ It is thus 
that all savage tribes have been taught arithmetic by their 
fingers. Mr. Oldfield, after giving the account just quoted 
of the capability of the Watchandie language to reach 4 
by numerals, goes on to describe the means by which the 
tribe contrive to deal with a harder problem in numeration. 

I once wished to ascertain the exact number of natives 
who had been slain on a certain occasion. The individual 
of whom I made the enquiry, began to think over the 
names , . . assigning one of his fingers to each, and it 
was not until after many failures, and consequent fresh 
starts, that he was able to express so high a number, which 
he at length did by holding up his hand three times, thus 
giving me to understand that fifteen was tlic answer to this 
most difficult arithmetical question.' Of the aborigines of 
Victoria, Mr. Stanbridge says : ‘ They have no name for 
numerals above two, but by repetition they count to five ; 
they also record the days of the moon by means of the 
fingers, the bones and joints of the arms and the head.'* 
The Bororos of Brazil reckon: i. couai ; 2. macouai ; 
3. ouai ; and then go on counting on their fingers, re- 
peating this ouai* Of course it no more follows among 
savages than among ourselves that, because a man counts 

^ Sicard, * Th^rie des Signes pour Tlnstruction des Sourds-Muctt,* vol. 
ii. p. 634. 

* Stanbridge in * Tr. Eth. Soc.* vol. i. p. 304. 

• Martius, ‘ Gloss. Brasil/ p. 1 5. 



on his fingers, his language must be wanting in words to 
express the number he wishes to reckon. For example it 
w£^ noticed that when natives of Kamchatka were set to 
count, they would reckon all their fingers, and then all 
their toes, so getting up to 20, and then would ask, ‘ What 
are we to do next ? * Yet it was found on examination 
that numbers up to 100 existed in their language.^ Travel- 
lers notice the use of finger-counting among tribes who can, 
if they choose, speak the number, and who either silently 
count it upon their fingers, or very usually accompany the 
word with the action ; nor indeed are either of these modes 
at all unfamiliar in modem Europ)e. Let Father Gumilla, 
one of the early Jesuit missionaries in South America, 
describe for us the relation of gesture to speech in count- 
ing, and at the same time bring to our minds very remark- 
able examples (to be paralleled elsewhere) of the action 
of consensus, whereby conventional rules become fixed 
among societies of men, even in so simple an art as that of 
counting on one’s fingers. 'Nobody among ourselves,* 
he remarks, ' except incidentally, would say for instance 
" one,” ” two,” &c., and give the number on his fingers as 
well, by touching {hem with the other hand. Exactly 
the contrary happens among Indians. They say, for in- 
stance, ” give me one pair of scissors,” and forthwith they 
raise one finger ; “ give me two,” and at once they raise 
two, and so on. They would never say "five ” without 
showing a hand, never " ten ” without holding out both, 
never ” twenty ” without adding up the fingers, placed 
opposite to the toes. Moreover, the mode of showing 
the numbers with the fingers differs in each nation. 
To avoid prolixity, I give as an example the number 
” three.” The Otomacs to say ” three ” unite the thumb, 
forefinger, and middle finger, keeping the others down. 
The Tamanacs show the little finger, the ring finger, and 
the middle finger, and close the other two. The Mai- 
pures, lastly, raise the fore, middle, and ring fingers, 

^ Kracheninnikow, ‘ Kamtchatka,’ p. 17. 



keeping the other two hidden/ ^ Throughout the world, 
"^the general relation between finger-counting and word- 
counting may be stated as iollows. For readiness and 
for ease and apprehension of numbers, a palpable arith- 
metic, such as is worked on finger-joints or fingers,* or 
heaps of pebbles or beans, or the more artificial contri- 
vances of the rosary or the abacus, has so great an ad- 
vantage over reckoning in words as almost necessarily 
to precede it. Thus not only do we find finger-counting 
among savages and uneducated men, carrying on a part of 
their mental operations where language is only partly able 
to follow it, but it also retains a place and an undoubted 
use among the most cultured nations, as a preparation for 
and means of acquiring higher arithmetical methods. 

Now there exists valid evidence to prove that a child 
learning to count upon its fingers does in a way reproduce 
a process of the mental history of the human race ; that in 
fact men counted upon their fingers before they found 
words for the numbers they thus expressed ; that in this 
" department of culture, Word-language not only followed 
Gesture-language, but actually grew out of it. The evi- 
dence in question is principally tha't of language itself, 
which shows that, among many and distant tribes, men 
wanting to express 5 in words called it simply by their 
name for the hand which they held up to denote it, that in 
like manner they said two hands or half a man to denote 
10, that the word foot carried on the reckoning up to 15, 

1 Gumilla, ‘ Historia del Orenoco,* vol. iii. ch. xlv. ; Pott, ‘ 2 ahlmethode,' 
p. 16. 

*The Eastern brokers have used for ages, and still use, the method of 
secretly indicating numbers to one another in bargaining, ‘ by snipping 
fingers under a cloth.' ‘ Every joynt and every finger hath his significa- 
tion,’ as an old traveller says, and the system seems a more or less artificial 
development of ordinary finger-counting, the thumb and little finger 
stretched out, and the other fingers closed, standing for 6 or 60, the ad- 
dition of the fourth finger making 7 or 70, and so on. It is said that 
between two brokers settling a price by thus snipping with the fingers, 
cleverness in bargaining, offering a little more, hesitating, expressing 
an obstinate refusal to go farther, &c., comes out just as in chaffering in 



and to 20, which they described in words as in gesture by 
the hands and feet together, or as one man, and that 
lastly, by various expressions referring directly to the 
gestures of counting on the fingers and toes, they gave 
names to these and intermediate numerals. As a definite 
term is wanted to describe significant numerals of this class, 
it may be convenient to call them ‘ hand-numerals ’ or 
* digit-numerals.' A selection of typical instances will 
serve to make it probable that this ingenious device was not, 
at any rate generally, copied from one tribe by another or 
inherited from a common source, but that its working out 
with original character and curiously varying detail displays 
the recurrence of a similar but independent process of 
mental development among various races of man. 

Father Gilij, describing the arithmetic of the Tamanacs 
on the Orinoco, gives their numerals up to 4 : when they 
come to 5, they express it by the word amgnaildne, which 
being translated means ‘ a whole hand ; ’ 6 is expressed by 
a term which translates the proper gesture into words, 
itacond amgnapond tevinitpe * one of the other hand,’ and 
so on up to 9. Coming to 10, they give it in words as 
amgna acepondrc * both hands.’ To denote ii they stretch 
out both the hands, and adding the foot they say puitta- 
pond tevinitpe ‘ one to the foot,’ and thus up to 15, which 
is iptaitone ‘a whole foot.’ Next follows 16, ‘one to the 
other foot,’ and so on to 20, tevin itdto, ‘ one Indian ; ’ 21, 
itacond itbto jamgndr bond tevinitpe ‘ one to the hands of the 
other Indian ;’ 40, acciachd itdto, ‘ two Indians ; ’ thence on 
to 60, 80, 100, ‘ three, four, five Indians,’ and beyond if 
needful. South America is remarkably rich in such evi- 
dence of an early condition of finger-counting recorded in 
spoken language. Among its many other languages which 
have recognizable digit-numerals, the Cayriri, Tupi, Abi- 
pone, and Carib rival the Tamanac in their systematic way 
of working out ‘ hand,’ ‘ hands,’ ‘ foot,’ ‘ feet,’ &c. Others 
show slighter traces of the same process, where, for 
instance, the numerals 5 or 10 are found to be connected 



with words for ‘ hand/ &c., as when the Omagua uses pua, 
* hand/ for 5, and reduplicates this into upapua for 10. In 
some South American languages a man is reckoned by 
fingers and toes up to 20, while in contrast to this, there are 
two languages which display a miserably low mental state, 
the man counting only one hand, thus stopping short at 5 ; 
the Juri ghomen apa ‘ one man,' stands for 5 ; the Cayriri 
ibichd is used to mean both ‘ person ' and 5. Digit- 
numerals are not confined to tribes standing, like these, low 
or high within the limits of savagery. The Muyscas of Bogota 
were among the more civilized native races of America, 
ranking with the Peruvians in their culture, yet the same 
method of formation which appears in the language of the 
rude Tamanacs is to be traced in that of the Muyscas, who, 
when they came to ii, 12, 13, counted quihicha ata, bosa, 
■mica, i.e., ' foot one, two, three/ ^ To turn to North 
America, Cranz, the Moravian missionary, thus describes 
about a century ago the numeration of the Greenlanders. 

‘ Their numerals,’ he says, ‘ go not far, and with them the 
proverb holds that they can scarce count five, for they 
reckon by the five fingers and then iget the help of the toes 
on their feet, and so with labour bring out twenty.’ The 
modern Greenland grammar gives the numerals much as 
Cranz docs, but more fully. The word for 5 is iatdlimat, 
which there is some ground for supposing to have once 
meant ‘ hand ; ’ 6 is arjinek-attausck, ‘ on the other hand 
one,’ or more shortly arjinigdlit, ' those which have on the 
other hand ; ’ 7 is arfinck-mardluk, ‘ on the other hand 
two ; ’ 13 is arkanck-pingatut, ' on the first foot three ; ’ 
18 is arfersanck-pingasut, * on the other foot three ; ’ when 
they reach 20, they can say inuk ndvdlugo, * a man ended,’ 
or inup avatai ndvdlugit, * the man’s outer members ended ;’ 
in this way by counting several men they reach higher 

^ Gllij ; * Saggio di Storia Americana,* vol. ii. p. 332 (Tamanac, Maypure). 
Martius, ‘ Gloss, Brasil,* (Cayriri, Tupi, Carib, Omagua, Juri, Guachi, Coretu, 
Cherentes, Maxuruna, Caripuna, Cauixana, Caraj^s, Coroado, &c.); Dobriz- 
hoffer, ‘Abiponcs,* vol. ii. p. 168; Humboldt, ‘Monumens,’ pi. xliv. (Muysca). 



numbers, thus expressing, for example, 53 as inilp pinga- 
jugsdne arkanek-pingasut, ' on the third man on the first foot 
three/^ If we pass from the rude Greenlanders to the com- 
paratively civilized Aztecs, we shall find on the Northern as 
on the Southern continent traces of early finger-numeration 
'^surviving among higher races. The Mexican names for the 
first four numerals are as obscure in etymology as our own. 
But when we come to 5 we find this expressed by macuilli ; 
and as ma (ma-itl) means * hand,’ and cuilaa ‘ to paint or 
depict,’ it is likely that the word for 5 may have meant 
something like * hand-depicting.’ In 10, mailacili, the 
word ma, ‘ hand,’ appears again, while tlactli means half, and 
is represented in the Mexico picture-writings by the figure 
of half a man from the waist upward ; thus it appears that 
the Aztec 10 means the ' hand-half ’ of a man, just as 
among the Towka Indians of South America 10 is expressed 
as ‘ half a man,’ a whole man being 20. When -the Aztecs 
reach 20 they call it cempoalli, ' one counting,’ with evi- 
dently the same meaning as elsewhere, one whole man, 
fingers and toes. 

Among races of the lower culture elsewhere, similar facts 
are to be observed, 'rtie Tasmanian language again shows 
the man stopping short at the reckoning of himself when he 
has held up one hand and counted its fingers ; this appears 
by Milligan’s list before mentioned, which ends with puggana, 

' man,' standing for 5. Some of the West Australian tribes 
have done much better than this, using their word for 
' hand,’ marh-ra ; marh-jin-bang-ga, ' half the hands,' is 
5 ; marh-jin-bang-ga-gudjir-gyn, ' half the hands and one,’ 
is 6, and so on ; marh-jin-belli-belli-gudjir-jina-bang-ga, 

* the hand on either side and half the feet,’ is 15.'^ As an ex- 
ample from the Melanesian languages the Mare will serve ; 
it reckons 10 as ome re rue tubeninc, apparently ‘ the two 

^ Cranz, ‘ Gronland/ p. 286 ; Kleins chmidt, * Gr. der Grdnl. Spr. Rae 
in ‘ Tr, Eth. Soc.* vol. iv. p. 14.5. 

* Milligan, 1 . c. ; G. F. Moore, ‘ Vocab. W. Australia.’ Compare a series 
of quinary numerals to 9, from Sydney, in Pott. * Zahlmcthodc,’ p. 46. 



sides ’ (i.e. both hands), 20 as sa re ngome, ' one man,’ &c. ; 
thus in John v. 5 ‘ which had an infirmity thirty and eight 
years,' the numeral 38 is expressed by the phrase, ‘one 
man and both sides five and three.'* In the Malayo- 
Polynesian languages, the typical word for 5 is lima or rima, 
‘ hand,’ and the connexion is not lost by the phonetic 
variations among different branches of this family of lan- 
guages, as in Malagasy dimy, Marquesan fima, Tongan 
Mima, but while lima and its varieties mean 5 in almost all 
Malayo-Polynesian dialects, its meaning of ‘ hand ’ is con- 
fined to a much narrower district, showing that the word 
became more permanent by passing into the condition of a 
traditional numeral. In languages of the Malayo-Polynesian 
family, it is usually found that 6, &c., are carried on with 
words whose etymology is no longer obvious, but the forms 
lima-sa, lima-zua ‘ hand-one,’ ‘ hand-two,’ have been found 
doing duty for 6 and 7.* In West Africa, Kolle’s account of 
the Vei language gives a case in point. These negroes are 
so dependent on their fingers that some can hardly count 
without , and their toes are convenient as the calculator squats 
on the ground. The Vei people and many other African 
tribes, when counting, first Count tlie fingers of their left 
hand, beginning, be it remembered, from the little one, then 
in the same manner those of the right hand, and afterwards 
the toes. The Vei numeral for 20, mo bdnde, means obvi- 
ously ‘ a person (mo) is finished (bande),’ and similarly 
40, 60, 80, &c. ‘ two men, three men, four men, &c., are 
finished.' It is an interesting point that the negroes who 
used these phrases had lost their original descriptive sense 
— the words have become mere numerals to them.® Lastly, 
for bringing before our minds a picture of a man counting 
upon his fingers, and being struck by the idea that if he 
describes his gestures in words, these words may become an 

^ Gabelentz^ ‘ Melanesiche Sprachen,* p. 183. 

2 W. V. Humboldt, * Kawi-Spr/ vol. ii. p. 308; corroborated by ‘As. 
Rc 8.’ vol. vi. p. 90 ; ‘ Journ. Ind. Archip.’ vol. iii. p. i8z, &c. 

® Kolle, * Gr. of Vei Lang.' p. 27. 



actual name for the number, perhaps no language in the 
world surpasses the Zulu. The Zulu counting on his 
fingers begins in general with the little finger of his left 
hand. When he comes to 5, this he may call edesanta 
‘ finish hand ; ’ then he goes on to the thumb of the right 
hand, and so the word tatisitupa ‘ taking the thumb ' 
becomes a numeral for 6. Then the verb komba ‘ to point,' 
indicating the forefinger, or ' pointer,’ makes the next 
numeral, 7. Thus, answering the question ‘ How much 
did your master give you ? ’ a Zulu would say ‘ U kombile ' 
‘ He pointed with his forefinger,’ i.e., ' He gave me 
seven,’ and this curious way of using the numeral verb is 
shown in such an example as ‘ amahasi akombile ’ ‘ the 
horses have pointed,’ i.e., ‘ there were seven of them.’ In 
like manner, Kijangalobili ‘ keep back two fingers,’ i.e. 8, 
and Kijangalolunje ' keep back one finger,’ i.e. 9, lead on 
to kumi, 10 ; at the completion of each ten the two hands 
with open fingers are clapped together.' 

The theory that man’s primitive mode of counting was 
palpable reckoning on his hands, and the proof that many 
numerals in present aise are actually derived from such a 
state of things, is a great step towards discovering the origin 
of numerals in general. Can we go farther, and state 
broadly the mental process by which savage men, having no 
numerals as yet in their language, came to invent them ? 
What was the origin of numerals not named with reference 
to hands and feet, and especiadly of the numerals below five, 
to which such a derivation is hardly appropriate ? The 
subject is a peculiarly difficult one. Yet as to principle it 
is not altogether obscure, for some evidence is forth- 
coming as to the actual formation of new numeral words, 
these being made by simply pressing into the service 
names of objects or actions in some way appropriate to the 

People possessing full sets of inherited numerals in their 

» Schreuder, ‘ Gr. for Zulu Sproget,' p. 30 ; Dbhne, ‘ Zulu Die.’ ; Grout, 

' Zulu Or.’ See Hahn, ‘ Gr. dee Herero.’ 



own languages have nevertheless sometimes foimd it con- 
venient to invent new ones. Thus the scholars of India, 
ages ago, selected a set of words from a memoria technica in 
order to record dates and numbers. These words they chose 
for reasons which are still in great measure evident ; thus 
‘ moon * or ‘ earth ' expressed i, there being but one of 
each ; 2 might be called * eye,' ‘ wing/ ‘ arm,' ' jaw/ 
as going in pairs ; for 3 they said ' Rama,' * fire,' or 
' quality/ there being considered to be three Ramas, three 
kinds of fire, three qualities (gtma) ; for 4 were used ' veda ' 
‘ age,' or ‘ ocean,' there being four of each recognized ; 
' season ' for 6, because they reckoned six seasons ; ' sage ' 
or ' vowel ' for 7, from the seven sages and the seven 
vowels ; and so on with higher numbers, ' sun ' for 12, 
because of his twelve annual denominations, or ' zodiac ' 
from its twelve signs, and * nail ' for 20, a word incidentally 
bringing in a finger notation. As Sanskrit is very rich in 
synonyms, and as even the numerals themselves might be 
used, it becomes very easy to draw up phrases or nonsense- 
verses to record series of numbers by this system of arti- 
ficial memory. The following is a «Hindu astronomical 
formula, a list of numbers referring to the stars of the lunar 
constellations. Each word stands as the mnemonic equi- 
valent of the number placed over it in the English trans- 
lation. The general principle on which the words are 
chosen to denote the numbers is evident without furthe r 
explanation ; — 

‘ Vahni tri rtvishu ^unendu kritagnibhuta 
Banasvinetra ^ara bhuku yugabdhi ramah 
Rudrabdhiramagunaveda^ata dviyugma 
Danta budhairabhihitah krama^o bhatarah.' 

.336531 4 

i.e.y * Fire, three, aeason, arrow, quality, moon, four-side of die, 

3 S 
fire, element, 

5 2251144 3 

Arrow, Asvin, eye, arrow, earth, earth, age, ocean, Rama, 



II 4 3 3 4 . 100 22 

Rudra, ocean, Rama, quality, Veda, hundred, two, couple, 


Teeth : by the wise have been set forth in order the mighty 
lords.* ^ 

It occurred to Wilhelm von Humboldt, in studying this 
curious system of numeration, that he had before his eyes 
the evidence of a process very like that which actually pro- 
duced the regular numeral words denoting one, two, three, 
&c., in the various languages of the world, The following 
passage in which, more than sixty years "ago, he set forth 
this view, seems to me to contain a nearly perfect key to 
the theory of numeral words. ' If we take into considera- 
tion the origin of actual numerals, the process of their 
formation appears evidently to have been the same as that 
here described. The latter is nothing else than a wider 
extension of the former. For when 5 is expressed, as in 
several languages of the Malay family, by hand " {lima), 
this is precisely the same thing as when in the description 
of numbers by words, 2 is denoted by ‘‘ wing.*' Indisput- 
ably there lie at the root of all numerals such metaphors 
as these, though they caTinot always be now traced. But 
people seem early to have felt that the multiplicity of such 
signs for the same number was superfluous, too clumsy, and 
leading to misunderstandings.' Therefore, he goes on to 
argue, synonyms of numerals are very rare. And to 
nations with a deep sense of language, the feeling must 
soon have been present, though perhaps without rising to 
distinct consciousness, that recollections of the original 
etymology and descriptive meaning of numerals had best be 
allowed to disappear, so as to leave the numerals themselves 
to become mere conventional terms. 

^ Sir W. Jones in ^As. Res.* vol. ii. 1790, p. 296 ; E. Jacquet in * Nouv. 
Journ. Asiat.* 1835 i Humboldt, ‘ Kawi-Spr.’ vol. i. p. 19. This 

system of recording dates, &c., extended as far as Tibet and the Indian 
Archipelago. Many important points of Oriental chronology depend on 
such formulas. Unfortunately their evidence is more or less vitiated bv 
inconsistencies in the use of words for numbers. 



The most instructive evidence I have found bearing on 
the formation of numerals, other than digit-numerals, 
among the lower races, appears in the use on both sides of 
the globe of what may be called numeral-names for children. 
In Australia a well-marked case occurs. With all the 
poverty of the aboriginal languages in numerals, 3 being 
commonly used as meaning ‘ several or many,’ the natives 
in the Adelaide district have for a particular purpose gone 
far beyond this narrow limit, and possess what is to all 
intents a special numeral system, extending perhaps to 9 . 
They give fixed names to their children in order of age, 
which are set down as follows by Mr. Eyre : i. Kertameru ; 
2. Warritya ; 3. Kudnutya ; 4. Monaitya ; 5. Milaitya ; 6. 
Marrutya ; 7. Wangutya ; 8. Ngarlaitya ; 9. Pouama. 
These are the male names, from which the female differ in 
termination. They are given at birth, more distinctive 
appellations being soon afterwards chosen.* A similar 
habit makes its appearance among the Malays, who in some 
districts are reported to use a series of seven names in order 
of age, beginning with i. Sulung (‘eldest’); 2. Awang 
(‘ friend, companion ’), and ending with Kechil (' little 
one ’), or Bongsu (‘ youngest ’). These are for sons ; 
daughters have Mch prefixed, and nicknames have to be 
nsed for practical distinction.* In Madagascar, the Malay 
connexion manifests itself in the appearance of a similar set 
of appellations given to children in lieu of proper names, 
which are, however, often substituted in after years. 
Males ; Lahimatoa {' first male ’), Lah-ivo {' intermediate 
male ’) ; Ra-fara-lahy (‘ last bom male ’). Females ; 
Ramatoa (‘eldest female’), Ra-ivo (‘intermediate’), Ra- 
fara-vavy (‘last bom female ’).* The system exists in 

^ Eyre, * Australia,* vol. ii. p. 324 : Sharmann, * Vocab. of Parnkalla 
Lang,* gives forms partially corresponding. 

* ' Journ. Ind. Archip.* New Ser. vol. ii. 1858, p. 118 [Sulong, Awang, 

I tarn (* black *), Puteh (‘ white ’), Allang, Pendeh, Kechil or Bongsu] j Bas- 
tian, ‘ Oestl. Asicn,* vol. ii. p. 494. The details are imperfectly given, and 
aeem not all correct. 

* Ellis, * Madagascar,’ vol. i. p. 1 54. Also Andriampaivo, or Lahi-Zan- 



North America. There have been found in use among 
the Dacotas the following two series of names for sons 
and daughters in order of birth. Eldest son, Chaske ; 
second, Haparm; third, Ha-pe-dah; fourth, Chatun ; fifth 
Harka, Eldest daughter, Wenonah; second, Harpen; 
third, Harpstenah; fourth, Waska; fifth, We-harka, These 
mere numeral appellations they retain through childhood, 
till their relations or friends find occasion to replace them 
by bestowing some more distinctive personal name.^ Africa 
affords further examples.* 

As to nurnerals in the ordinary sense, Polynesia shows 
remarkable cases of new formation. Besides the well- 
known system of numeral words prevalent in Polynesia, 
exceptional terms have from time to time grown up. Thus 
the habit of altering words which sounded too nearly like a 
king's name, has led the Tahitians on the accession of new 
chiefs to make several new words for numbers. Thus, 
wanting a new term for 2 instead of the ordinary rua, they 
for obvious reasons took up the word piti, ' together,' and 
made it a numeral, while to get a new word for 5 instead of 
rima, 'hand,' which h^d to be discontinued, they substi- 
tuted pae, * part, division,' meaning probably division of 
the two hands. Such words as these, introduced in 
Polynesia for ceremonial reasons, are expected to be 
dropped again and the old ones replaced, when the reason 
for their temporary exclusion ceases, yet the new 2 and 5, 
piti and pae, became so positively the proper numerals of 
the language, that they stand instead of rua and rima in the 
Tahitian translation of the Gospel of St. John made at 
the time. Again, various special habits of counting in the 
South Sea Islands have had their effect on language. The 
Marquesans, counting fish or fruit by one in each hand, 

drina, for last male ; Andrianivo for intermediate male. Malagasy laby 
‘male’= Malay laki ; Malagasy vavy^ ‘ female ’= Tongan fafine, Maori 
vsahine^ ‘ woman ; ’ comp. Malay batina^ ‘ female.’ 

^ M. Eastman, ‘ Daheotah ; or, Life and Legends of the Sioux,’ p. xxv. 

* ‘ Journ. Ethnol. Soc.’ vol. iv. (Akra) ; Floss, * Das Kind,* vol. i. p, 139 


have come to use a system of counting by pairs instead of 
by units. They start with tauna, * a pair/ which thus 
becomes a numeral equivalent to 2 ; then they count 
onward by pairs, so that when they talk of takm or 10, they 
really mean 10 pair or 20. For bread-fruH, as they are 
accustomed to tie them up in knots of four, they begin with 
the word pona, ‘ knot/ which thus becomes a real numeral 
for 4, and here again they go on counting by knots, so that 
when they say takaii or 10, they mean 10 knots or 40. 
The philological mystification thus caused in Polynesian 
vocabularies is extraordinary; in Tahitian, &c., rau and 
mano, properly meaning 100 and 1,000, have come to 
signify 200 and 2,000, while in Hawaii a second doubling 
in their sense makes them equivalent to 400 and 4,000. 
Moreover, it seems possible to trace the transfer of suitable 
names of objects still farther in Polynesia in the Tongan 
and Maori word tekau, 10, which seems to have been a 
word for ' parcel ' or * bunch,' used in counting yams and 
fish, as also in tefuhi, 100, derived from fuhi, ‘ sheaf or 

In Africa, also, special numeral^ formations are to be 
noticed. In the Yoruba language, 40 is called ogodzi, ‘ a 
string,' because cowries are strung by forties, and 200 is 
igba, * a heap,' meaning again a heap of cowries. Among 
the Dahomans in like manner, 40 cowries make a kade or 
* string/ 50 strings make one afo or ‘ head ; ' these words 
becoming numerals for 40 and 2,000. When the king of 
Dahome attacked Abeokuta, it is on record that he was 
repulsed with the heavy loss of ‘ two heads, twenty strings , 
and twenty cowries ' of men, that is to say, 4,820.® 

Among cultured nations, whose languages are most 
tightly bound to the conventional and unintelligible 

^ H. Hale, * Ethnography and Philology/ vol. vi. of Wilkes, U.S. Explor- 
ing Exp., Philadelphia, 1846, pp. 172, 289. (N.B. — The ordinary editions 
do not contain this important volume.) 

2 Bowen, ‘ Gr. and Die. of Yoruba.* Burton in * Mem. Anthrop. Soc.,* 
vol. i. p. 314. 



numerals of their ancestors, it is likewise usual to find 
other terms existing which are practically numerals already, 
and might drop at once into the recognized places of such, if 
by any chance a gap were made for them in the traditional 
series. Had we room, for instance, for a new word instead 
of UvOy then either pair (Latin far, * equal ') or couple 
(Latin copula, ' bond or tie,’) is ready to fill its place. 
Instead of twenty, the good English word score, ' notch,’ 
will serve our turn, while, for the same purpose, German 
can use stiegc, possibly with the original sense of ‘ a stall 
full of cattle, a sty ; ’ Old Norse droit, ‘ a company,’ 
Danish, snecs. A list of such words used, but not gram- 
matically classed as numerals in European languages, shows 
great variety : examples are, Old Norse, flockr (flock), 5 ; 
sveit, 6 ; drott (party), 20 ; thiodh (people), 30 ; folk 
(people), 40 ; old (people), 80 ; her (army), 100 ; Sleswig, 
schilk, 12 (as though we were to make a numeral out of 

* shilling’) ; Middle High-German, rotte, 4 ; New High- 
German, mandel, 15 ; schock (sheaf), 60. The Letts give a 
curious parallel to Polynesian cases just cited. They 
throw crabs and little fish three at a time in counting them, 
and therefore the word mettens, * a throw,’ has come to 
mean 3 ; while flounders being fastened in lots of thirty, 
the word kahlis, ‘ a cord,’ becomes a teiTn to express this 
number. ^ 

In two other ways, the production of numerals from 
merely descriptive words may be observed both among 
lower and higher races. The Gallas have no numerical 
fractional terms, but they make an equivalent set of terms 
from the division of the cakes of salt which they use as 
money. Thus tchabnana, ‘ a broken piece ’ (from tchaba, 

* to break,’ as we say ' a fraction ’), receives the meaning 
of one-half ; a term which we may compare with Latin 
dimidium, French demi. Ordinal numbers are generally 
derived from cardinal numbers, as third, fourth, fifth, from 

^ See Pott, ‘ Zahlmethode/ pp. 78, 99, 124, 161 j Grimm, ‘Deutsche 
Rechtsalterthiimer,’ ch. v. 



three, four, five. But among the very low ones there is to 
be seen evidence of independent formation quite uncon- 
nected with a conventional system of numerals already 
existing. Thus the Greenlander did not use his ' one ' to 
make ‘ first/ but calls it sujugdlek, ' foremost/ nor ' two ' 
to make ' second/ which he calls aipd, ' his companion ; " 
it is only at ‘ third * that he takes to his cardinals, and 
forms pingajuat in connexion with pingasut, 3. So, in 
Indo-European languages, the ordinal prathamas, Trp&ro^y 
primus, first, has nothing to do with a numerical * one,' 
but with the preposition pra, ‘ before,' as meaning simply 
‘ foremost ; ' and although Greeks and Germans call the 
next ordinal Scvrcpos, zweite, from 8uo. zwei, we call it 
second, Latin secundus, ' the following ' (sequi), which is 
again a descriptive sense-word. 

If we allow ourselves to mix for a moment what is with 
what might be, we can see how unlimited is the field of 
possible growth of numerals by mere adoption of the names 
of familiar things. Following the example of the Sleswigers 
we might make shilling a numeral for 12, and go on to ex- 
press 4 by groat ; week would provid/^ us with a name for 7, 
ijuid clover for 3. But this simple method of description 
is not the only available one for the purpose of making 
numerals. The moment any series of names is arranged in 
regular order in our minds, it becomes a counting-machine. 
I have read of a little girl who was set to count cards, and 
she counted them accordingly, January, February, March, 
April. She might, of course, have reckoned them as 
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. It is interesting to find a 
case coming under the same class in the language of grown 
people. We know that the numerical value of the Hebrew 
letters is given with reference to their place in the alphabet, 
which was arranged for reasons that can hardly have had 
anything to do with arithmetic. The Greekalphabet is modi- 
fied from a Semitic one, but instead of letting the numeral 
value of their letters follow throughout their newly-arranged 
alphabet, they reckon a, p, y, 6. c. properly, as i, 2, 3, 4, 5, 



then put in r for 6, and so manage to let * stand for 10, 
as ’ does in Hebrew, where it is really the loth letter. Now, 
having this conventional arrangement of letters made, it is 
evident that a Greek who had to give up the regular i, 2, 3, 
— *fs, Svo, rpfis, could supply their places at once by 
adopting the names of the letters which had been settled to 
stand for them, thus calling i alpha, 2 beta, 3 gamma, and 
so onward. The thing has actually happened ; a remarkable 
slang dialect of Albania, which is Greek in structure, 
though full of borrowed and mystified words and metaphors 
and epithets understood only by the initiated, has, as its 
equivalent for ‘ four ' and ‘ ten,’ the words S«A,to and 

9*^ 1 


While insisting on the value of such evidence as this in 
making out the general principles of the formation of 
numerals, I have not found it profitable to undertake the 
task of etymologizing the actual numerals of the languages 
of the world, outside the safe limits of the systems of digit- 
numerals among the lower races, already discussed. There 
may be in the languages of the lower races other relics of 
the etymology of numerals, giving the clue to the ideas 
according to which they were selected for an arithmetical 
purpose, but such relics seem scanty and indistinct.* There 
may even exist vestiges of a growth of numerals from de- 
scriptivejwprds in our Indo-European languages, in Hebrew 
and Arabic, in Chinese. Such etymologies have been 

^ Francis que-Michel, ‘ Argot,’ p. 483. 

* Of evidence of this class, the following deserves attention : — Dobrizhoffer 
* Abipones,* vol. ii. p. 169, gives geyenknate^ ‘ostrich-toes,’ as the numeral 
for 4, their ostrich having three toes before and one behind, and neenhaleky 
*a five-coloured spotted hide,’ as the numeral D’Orbigny, ‘L’Homme 
Am6ricain,’ vol. ii. p. 163, remarks : — * Les Chiquitos ne savent compter que 
jusqu’i un (tama), n’ayant plus ensuite que des termes de comparaison.’ 
Kdlle, * Gr. of Vei Lang.,’ notices that fera means both * with ’ and 2, and 
thinks the former meaning original (compare the Tah. pitiy * together,' 
thence 2). Quichua chuncUy * heap,’ chuncay 10, may be connected. Aztec, 
ccy I, cen~tliy ‘grain,’ may be connected. On possible derivations of 2 from 
hand, &c., especially Hottentot, t^koanty ‘ hand, 2,’ see Pott, * Zahlmethode,' 
p. 29. 

26 o 


brought forward,^ and they are consistent with what is 
known of the principles on which numerals or quasi- 
numerals are really formed. But so far as I have been able 
to examine the evidence, the cases all seem so philologically 
doubtful, that I cannot bring them forward in aid of the 
theory before us, and, indeed, think that if they succeed in 
establishing themselves, it Avill be by the theory supporting 
them, rather than by their supporting the theory. This 
state of things, indeed, fits perfectly with the view here 
adopted, that when a word has once been taken up to 
serve as a numeral, and is thenceforth wanted as a mere 
symbol, it becomes the interest of language to allow it to 
break down into an apparent nonsense-word, from which 
all traces of original etymology have disappeared. 

Etymological research into the derivation of numeral 
words thus hardly goes with safety beyond showing in the 
languages of the lower culture frequent instances of digit- 
y^umerals, words taken from direct description of the ges- 
tures of counting on fingers and toes. Beyond this, 
another strong argument is available, which indeed covers 
almost the whole range of the problem. The numerical 
systems of the world, by fhe actual schemes of their arrange- 
ment, extend and confirm the opinion that counting on 
fingers and toes was man’s original method of reckoning, 
taken up and represented in language. To count the 
fingers on one hand up to 5, and then go on with a second 

^ See Farrar, ‘ Chapters on Language,* p. 223. Benloew, ‘ Recherches sur 
I’Origine des Noms de Nombre Pictet, * Origines Indo-Europ.* part ii. ch. 
ii. ; Pott, ‘ Zahlmethode,’ p. 12%^ &c. ; A. v. Humboldt’s plausible compari- 
son between Skr. pancha, 5, and Pers. penjeh^ ‘ the palm of the hand with the 
fingers spread out ; the outspread foot of a bird,’ as though 5 were called 
pancha from being like a hand, is erroneous. The Persian penjeh is itself 
derived from the numeral 5, as in Skr. the hand is called pancbafdkha^ ‘ the 
five-branched.’ The same formation is found in English ; slang describes a 
man’s hand as his ‘ fives,’ or ‘ bunch of fives,’ thence the name of the game 
of fives, played by striking the ball with the open hand, a term which 
has made its way out of slang into accepted language. Burton describes 
the polite Arab at a meal, calling his companion’s attention to a grain of 
rice fallen into his beard. ' The gazelle is in the garden,’ he says, with a 
smile. ‘ We will hunt her with the five^ is the reply. 


five, is a notation by fives, or as it is called, a quina^nota- 
tion. To count by the use of both hands to 10, and thence 
foTreckon by tens, is a decimal notation. To go on by 
hands and feet to 20, and thence to reckon by twenties, is a 
vjge^mal notation. Now though in the larger proportion of 
known languages, no distinct mention of fingers and toes, 
hands and feet, is observable in the numerals themselves, 
yet the very schemes of quinary, decimal, and vigesimal no- 
tation remain to vouch for such hand-and-foot-counting 
having been the original method on which they were 
founded. There seems no doubt that the number of the 
fingers led to the adoption of the not especially suitable 
number 10 as a period in reckoning, so that decimal 
arithmetic is based on human anatomy. This is so obvious, 
that it is curious to see Ovid in his well-known lines putting 
the two facts close together, without seeing that the second 
was the consequence of the first. 

‘ Annus erat, decimum cum luna recepcrat orbem. 

Hie numerus magno tunc in honore fuit. 

Seu quia tot digiti, per quos numerare solemus : 

Seu quia bis quino femina mense parit : 

Seu quod adusque decern numero crcscente venitur, 

Principium spatiis sumitur inde novis.’ ^ 

In surveying the languages of the world at large, it is 
found that among tribes or nations far enough advanced in 
arithmetic to count up to five in words, there prevails, with 
scarcely an exception, a method founded on hand-counting, 
quinary, decimal, vigesimal, or combined of these. For 
perfect examples of the quinary method, we may take a 
Polynesian series which runs i, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5-1, 5-2, &c. ; or 
a Melanesian series which may be rendered as i, 2, 3, 4, 5, 
2nd I, 2nd 2, &c. Quinary leading into decimal is well 
shown in the Fellata series i . . . 5, 5*1 . . . 10, lo i . . . 
10*5, I0-5-I ... 20, ... 30, ... 40, &c. Pure decimal 
may be instanced from Hebrew i, 2 . . . 10, lO i . . . 20, 
20*1 .. . &c. Pure vigesimal is not usual, for the obvious 

^Ovid, Fast. iii. i2i. 



reason that a set of independent numerals to 20 would be 
inconvenient; but it takes on from quinary, as in Aztec, 
which may be analyzed as i, 2 ... 5, 5*1 ... 10, lo i . . . 
10*5, 10*51 ... 20, 20*1 . . . 20*10, 20*10*1 ... 40, &c. ; 
or from decimal, as in Basque, i . . . 10, 10*1 . . . 20, 20* i 
. . . 20*10, .20*10*1 ... 40 &c.^ It seems unnecessary to 
bring forward here the mass of linguistic details required for 
any general demonstration of these principles of numeration 
among the races of the world. Prof. Pott, of Halle, has treated 
the subject on elaborate philological evidence, in a special 
monograph,® which is incidentally the most extensive collec- 
tion of details relating to numerals, indispensable to students 
occupied with such enquiries. For the present piirpose the 
following rough generalization may suffice, that the quinary 
system is frequent among the lower races, among whom also 
the vigesimal system is considerably developed, but the ten- 
'dency of the higher nations has been to avoid the one as 
too scanty, and the other as too cumbrous, and to use the in- 
termediate decimal system. These differences in the usage of 
various tribes and nations do not interfere with, but rather 
confirm, the general principle which is their common cause, 
that man originally learnt to reckon from his fingers and 
toes, and in various ways stereotyped in language the result 
of this primitive method. 

Some curious points as to the relation of these systems 
may be noticed in Europe. It was observed of a certain 
deaf-and-dumb boy, Oliver Caswell, that he learnt to count 
as high as 50 on his fingers, but always ‘ fived,' reckoning, 
for instance, 18 objects as ‘ both hands, one hand, three 
fingers.'® The suggestion has been made that the Greek use 

® The actual word-numerals of the two quinary series are given at ex- 
amples. Triton’s Bay, i, samosi ; 2, roeeti ; 3, touwroe; 4, foot ; 5, rimi; 6, 
rim-samos ; 7, rim-roeeti; 8, rim-touwroe ; 9, rim-faat ; 10, toomja, Lifu, i, 
pacha; 2, lo; 3, kun; 4, thack; 5, tbahumb; 6, lo~acba; 7, lo-chlo; 8, Uhkunn; 
9, lo-tback; 10, te-bennete, 

* A. F. Pott, * Die Quinare und Vigesimale .Zlihlmethode bei Volkern 
aller Welttheile,* Halle, 1847 1 supplemented in * Festgabe zur xxv. 
Versammlung Deutscher Philologen, &c., in Halle ’ (1867). 

* * Account of Laura Bridgman,’ London, 1845, P* < 59 * 



of ‘ to five,* as an expression for counting, is a trace 

of rude old quinary numeration (compare Finnish lokket ' to 
count,* from lokke ' ten *). Certainly, the Roman numerals 
I, II, ... V, VI ... X, XI .. . XV, XVI, &c., form a 
remarkably well-defined written quinary system. Remains 
of vigesimal counting are still more instructive. Counting 
by twenties is a strongly marked Keltic characteristic. The 
cumbrous vigesimal notation could hardly be brought more 
strongly into view in any savage race than in such examples 
as Gaelic aon deug is da fhichead * one, ten, arid two 
twenties,* i.e., 51 ; or Welsh unarbymtheg ar ugain ‘ one 
and fifteen over twenty,* i.e., 36 ; or Breton unnek ha tri- 
ugent * eleven and three twenties,* i.e., 71. Now French, 
being a Romance language, has a regular system of Latin 
tens up to 100 ; cinquante, soixante, septante, hiiitante, 
nonante, which are to be found still in use in districts 
within the limits of the French language, as in Belgium. 
Nevertheless, the clumsy system of reckoning by twenties 
has broken out through the decimal system in France. 
The septante is to a great extent suppressed, soixante- 
quatorze, for instance, standing for 74 ; quaire-vingis has 
fairly established itself for 80, and its use continues into 
the nineties, quatre-vingt-treize for 93 ; in numbers above 
100 we find six-vingts, sept-vingts, huit-vingts, for 120, 140, 
160, and a certain hospital has its name of Les Quinze- 
vingts from its 300 inmates. It is, perhaps, the most 
reasonable explanation of this curious phenomenon, to 
suppose the earlier Keltic system of France to have held its 
ground, modelling the later French into its own ruder 
shape. In England, the Anglo-Saxon numeration is 
decimal, hund-seofontig, 70 ; hund-eahtatig, 80 ; hund-ni- 
gontig, go ; hund-teontig, 100 ; hund-enlufontig, no ; hund- 
twelftig, 120. It may ^ here also by Keltic survival that 
the vigesimal reckoning by the * score,' threescore and ten, 
fourscore and thirteen, &c., gained a position in English 
which it has not yet totally lost.^ 

^ Compare the Rajmahali tribes adopting Hindi numerals, yet reckoning 



From some minor details in numeration, ethnological 
hints may be gained. Among rude tribes with scanty 
series of numerals, combin atio n to inake out new numbers 
is very soon resorted to. Among Australian tribes addition 
makes ‘ two-one,' ' two-two/ express 3 and 4 ; in Guachi 
*lwo-two' is 4 ; in San Antonio ‘four and tw'o-one' is 7. 
The plan of making numerals by subtraction is known in 
North America, and is well shown in the Aino language of 
Yesso, where the words for 8 and 9 obviously mean ‘ tw o 
from ten,' ‘ one from ten/ Multiplication appears^ as in 
San Antonio, ‘ two-and-one-two,' and in a Tupi dialect 
^ two-three,’ to express 6. Division seems not known for 
such purposes among the lo^r races, and quite exceptional 
among the higher, tracts of this class show variety in the 
inventive devices of mankind, and independence in their 
formation of language. They are consistent at the same 
time with the general principles of hand-counting. The 
traces of what might be called binary, ternary, quaternary, 
senary reckoning, which turn on 2, 3, 4, 6, are mere 
varieties, leading up to, or lapsing into, quinary and decimal 
methods. • 

The contrast is a striking one between the educated 
European, with his easy use of his boundless numeral series, 
and the Tasmanian, who reckons 3, or anything beyond 2, 
as ‘ many,' and makes shift by his whole hand to reach the 
limit of ‘ man,' that is to say, 5. This contrast is due to 
arrest of development in the savage, whose mind remains in 
the childish state which the beginning of one of our nur- 
sery number-rhymes illustrates curiously. It runs — 

‘ One’s none, 

Two’s some, 

Three’s a many, 

Four’s a penny, 

Five’s a little hundred.’ 

by twenties. Shaw, l.c. The use of a * score ’ as an indefinite number in 
England, and similarly of 20 in France, of 40 in the Hebrew of the Old 
Testament and the Arabic of the Thousand and One Nights, may be among 
other traces of vigesimal reckoning. 



To notice this state of things among savages and chil- 
dren raises interesting points as to the early history of 
grammar. W. von Humboldt suggested the analogy be- 
tween the savage notion of 3 as ' many * and the gram- 
matical use of 3 to form a kind of superlative, in forms 
of which * trismegistus,* ‘ ter felix,’ ' thrice blest/ are 
familiar instances. The relation of single, dual, and plural 
is well shown pictorially in the Egyptian hieroglyphics, 
where the picture of an object, a horse for instance, 
is marked by a single line | if but one is meant, by two 
lines I I if two are meant, by three lines | ] | if three or 
an indefinite plural number are meant. The scheme of 
grammatical number in some of the most ancient and im- 
portant languages of the world is laid down on the same 
savage principle. Egyptian, Arabic, Hebrew, Sanskrit, 
Greek, Gothic, are examples of languages using singular, 
dual, and plural number ; but the tendency of higher intel- 
lectual culture has been to discard the plan as inconvenient 
and unprofitable, and only to distinguish singular and 
plural. No doubt the dual held its place by inheritance 
from an early periojl of culture, and Dr. D. Wilson seems 
justified in his opinion that it * preserves to us the 
memorial of that stage of thought when all beyond two 
was an idea of indefinite number.'^ 

When two races at different levels of culture come into 
contact, the ruder people adopt new art and knowledge, but 
at the same time their own special culture usually comes to 
a standstill, and even falls off. It is thus with the art of 
counting. We may be able to prove that the lower race 
had actually been making great and independent progress 
in it, but when the higher race comes with a convenient 
and unlimited means of not only naming all imaginable 
numbers, but of writing them down and reckoning with 
them by means of a few simple figures, what likelihood is 
there that the barbarian's clumsy methods should be farther 
worked out ? As to the ways in which the numerals of the 

^ D. Wilson, * Prehistoric Man,* p. 6i6. 



superior race are grafted on the language of the inferior, 
Captain Grant describes the native slaves of Equatorial 
Africa occupying their lounging hours in learning the 
numerals of their Arab masters.^ Father Dobrizhoffer's 
account of the arithmetical relations between the native 
Brazilians and the Jesuits is a good description of the 
intellectual contact between savages and missionaries. 
The Guaranis, it appears, counted up to 4 with their native 
numerals, and when they got beyond, they would say 
' innumerable.' ‘ But as counting is both of manifold use 
in common life, and in the confessional absolutely indis- 
pensable in making a complete confession, the Indians were 
daily taught at the public catechising in the church to 
count in Spanish. On Sundays the whole people used to 
count with a loud voice in Spanish, from i to 1,000.' The 
missionary, it is true, did not find the natives use the 
numbers thus learnt very accurately — ‘ We were washing 
at a blackamoor,' he says.* If, however, we examine the 
modern vocabularies of savage or low barbarian tribes, they 
will be found to afford interesting evidence how really 
effective the influence of higher on lower civilization has 
been in this matter. So far as the ruder system is com- 
plete and moderately convenient, it may stan'd, but where 
it ceases or grows cumbrous, and sometimes at a lower 
limit than this, we can see the cleverer foreigner taking it 
into his own hands, supplementing or supplanting the 
scanty numerals of the lower race by his own. The higher 
race, though advanced enough to act thus on the lower, 
need not be itself at an extremely high level. Markham 
observes that the Jivaras of the Maranon, with native 
numerals up to 5, adopt for higher numbers those of the 
Quichua, the language of the Peruvian Incas.* The cases 
oi the indigenes of India are instructive. The Khonds 
reckon i and 2 in native words, and then take to borrowed 

^ Grant in ‘ Tr. Eth. Soc.* vol. iii. p. 90. 

* Dobrizhoffer, ‘ Geach. der Abiponer/ p. ^05 j Eng. Trans, vol. ii. p. 171, 

* Markham in * Tr. Eth. Soc.’ vol. Hi. p. 166. 



Hindi numerals. The Oraon tribes, while belonging to a 
race of the Dravidian stock, and having had a series of 
native numerals accordingly, appear to have given up their 
use beyond 4, or sometimes even 2, and adopted Hindi 
numerals in their place.^ The South American Conibos 
were observed to count i and 2 with their own words, and 
then to borrow Spanish numerals, much as a Brazilian 
dialect of the Tupi family is noticed in the last century as 
having lost the native 5, and settled down into using the 
old native numerals up to 3, and then continuing in Portu- 
guese.* In Melanesia, the Annatom language can only 
count in its own numerals to 5, and then borrows English 
siks, seven, eel, nain, &c. In some Polynesian islands, 
though the native numerals are extensive enough, the 
confusion arising from reckoning by pairs and fours as well 
as units, has induced the natives to escape from perplexity 
by adopting huneri and tausani.^ And though the Esqui- 
maux counting by hands, feet, and whole men, is capable of 
expressing high numbers, it becomes practically clumsy 
even when it gets among the scores, and the Greenlander 
has done well to adopt untrtte and tusinte from his Danish 
teachers. Similarity of numerals in two languages is a 
point to which philologists attach great and deserved 
importance in the question whether they are to be con- 
sidered as sprung from a common stock. But it is clear 
that so far as one race may have borrowed numerals from 
another, this evidence breaks down. The fact that this 
borrowing extends as low as 3, and may even go still lower 
for all we know, is a reason for using the argument from 
connected numerals cautiously, as tending rather to prove 
intercourse than kinship. 

At the other end of the scale of civilization, the adoption 

^ Latham, * Comp. Phil.* p. 186 ; Shaw in * As. Res.’ vol. iv. p. 96 ; 
* Journ. As. Soc. Bengal,’ 1866, part ii. pp. 27, 204, 251. 

* St. Cricq in * Bulletin dc la Soc. de Giog.* 1853, p. 286 ; Pott, * Z&hlme* 
thode,* p, 7. 

* Gabelentz, p. 89 ; Hale, l.c. 



of numerals from nation to nation still .presents interest- 
ing philological points. Our own language gives curious 
instances, as second and million. The manner in which 
English, in common with German, Dutch, Danish, and 
even Russian, has adopted Mediaeval Latin dozena (froiti 
duodecim) shows how convenient an arrangement it was 
found to buy and sell by the dozen, and how necessary it 
was to have a special word for it. But the borrowing 
process has gone farther than this. If it were asked how 
many sets of numerals are now in use among English- 
speaking people in England, the probable reply would be 
one set, the regular one, two, three, &c. There exist, however, 
two borrowed sets as well. One is the well-known dicing- 
set, ace, deuce, tray, cater, cinque, size ; thus size-ace is ' 6 
and one,' cinques or sinks, * double five.' These came to 
us from France, and correspond with the common French 
numerals, except ace, which is Latin as, a word of great 
" philological interest, meaning ' one.' The other borrowed 
set is to be found in the Slang Dictionary. It appears 
that the English street-folk have adopted as a means of 
secret communication a set of It^ian numerals from the 
organ-grinders and image-sellers, or by other ways through 
which Italian or Lingua Franca is brought into the low 
neighbourhoods of London. In so doing, they have per- 
formed a philological operation not only curious, but in- 
structive. By copying such expressions as Italian due soldi, 
tre soldi, as equivalent to ' twopence,' ‘ threepence,' the 
word saltee became a recognized slang term for * penny,* 
and pence are reckoned ^as follows : — 

Oney saltee . 

Daoe saltee . 

Tray saltee . 

Quarterer saltej^ . 

Chinker saltee 
Say saltee . 

Say oney saltee or setter saltee 
Say dooe saltee or otter saltee . 
Say tray saltee or nobba saltee 

. id. uno soldo. 

. . zd, due soldi. 

. * 3 c^. tre soldi. 

. . 4<f. quattro soldi. 

. . 5^. cinque soldi. 

. . Sd. sei soldi. 

. yd. sette soldi. 

. %d. otto soldi. 

. . 9^. nove soldi. 



Say quarterer saltee or dacha saltee . 
Say chinker saltee or dacha oney saltee 
Oney heong . . , . . 

A heong say saltee 

Dooe heong say saltee or madza caroon 

lod, died soldi. 
lid. undid soldi. 

I5« Sd. 

zs. 6d. (half crown, 
mezza corona.) ^ 

One of these series simply adopts Italian numerals deci- 
mally. But the other, when it has reached 6, having 
had enough of novelty, makes 7 by ' six-one/ and so 
continues. It is for no abstract reason that 6 is thus 
made the turning-point, but simply because the coster- 
monger is adding pence up to the silver sixpence, and 
then adding pence again up to the shilling. Thus our duo- 
decimal coinage has led to the practice of counting by 
sixes, and produced a philological curiosity, a real senary 

On evidence such as has been brought forward in this 
essay, the apparent relations of savage to civilized culture, 
as regards the Art of Counting, may now be briefly stated 
in conclusion. The principal methods to which the 
development of the higher arithmetic are due, lie outside 
the problem. They.are mostly ingenious plans of express- 
ing numerical relation by written symbols. Among them 
are the Semitic scheme, and the Greek derived from it, of 
using the alphabet as a series of numerical symbols, a plan 
not quite discarded by ourselves, at least for ordinals, as in 
schedules A, B, &c. ; the use of initials of numeral words 
as figures for the numbers themselves, as in Greek II and 
A for 5 and 10, Roman C and M for 100 and 1,000 ; the 
device of expressing fractions, shown in a rudimentary 
stage in Greek r'» 5 ', for for | ; the introduction of 

the cipher or zero, by means of which the Arabic or Indian 
numerals have their value according to their position in a 
decimal order corresponding to the succession of the rows ol 
the abacus ; and lastly, the modern notation of decimal 
fractions by carr5dng down below the unit the proportional 

1 J. C. Hotten, * Slang Dictionary,* p. zi8. 



order which for ages had been in use above it. The ancient 
Egyptian and the still-used Roman and Chinese numeration 
are indeed founded on savage picture-writing/ while the 
abacus and the swan-pan, the one still a valuable school- 
instrument, and the other in full practical use, have their 
germ in the savage counting by groups of objects, as when 
South Sea Islanders count with coco-nut staJks, putting a 
little one aside every time they come to 10, and a large one 
when they come to 100, or when African negroes reckon 
with pebbles or nuts, and every time they come to 5 put 
them aside in a little heap.* 

We are here especially concerned with gesture-counting 
on the fingers, as an absolutely savage art still in use among 
children and peasants, and with the system of numeral 
words, as known to all mankind, appearing scantily among 
the lowest tribes, and reaching within savage limits to deve- 
lopments which the highest civilization has only improved in 
detail. These two methods of computation by gesture and 
word tell the story of primitive arithmetic in a way that can 
be hardly perverted or misunderstood. We see the savage 
who can only count to 2 or 3 or 4 ii^ words, but can go 
farther in dumb show. He has words for hands and fingers, 
feet and toes, and the idea strikes him that the words which 
describe the gesture will serve also to express its meaning, 
and they become his numerals accordingly. This did not 
happen only once, it happened among different races in 
distant regions, for such terms as * hand ' for 5, ' hand- 
one ' for 6, * hands ’ for 10, ‘ two on the foot * for 12, 
* hands and feet ' or ‘ man ' for 20, ' two men ' for 40, &c., 
show such uniformity as is due to common principle, but 
also such variety as is due to independent working-out. 
These are ' pointer-facts ' which have their place and 
explanation in a development-theory of culture, while a 
degeneration-theory totally fails to take them in. They are 
distinct records of development, and of independent deve- 

^ ‘ Early History of Mankind/ p. 106. 

* Ellis, ‘ Polyn. Res.* vol. i. p. 91 ; Klemm, C. G. vol. iii. p. 383. 



lopment, among savage tribes to whom some writers on 
civilization have rashly denied the very faculty of self- 
improvement. The original meaning of a great part of the 
stock of numerals of the lower races, especially of those from 
I to 4, not suited to be named as hand-numerals, is obscure. 
They may have been named from comparison wth objects, 
in a way which is shown actually to happen in such forms 
as ' together ' for 2, ' throw ' for 3, ' knot ' for 4 ; but 
any concrete meaning we may guess them to have once had 
seems now by modification and mutilation to have passed 
out of knowledge. 

Remembering how ordinary words change and lose their 
traces of original meaning in the course of ages, and that in 
numerals such breaking down of meaning is actually 
desirable, to make them fit for pure arithmetical symbols, 
we cannot wonder that so large a proportion of existing 
numerals should have no discernible etymology. This is 
especially true of the i, 2, 3, 4, among low and high races 
alike, the earliest to be made, and therefore the earliest to 
lose their primary significance. Beyond these low numbers 
the languages of the higher and lower races show a remark- 
able difference. The hand-and-foot numerals, so prevalent 
and unmistakable in savage tongues like Esquimaux and 
Zulu, are scarcely if at all traceable in the great languages 
of civilization, such as Sanskrit and Greek, Hebrew and 
Arabic. This state of things is quite conformable to the 
development-theory of language. We may argue that 
it was in comparatively recent times that savages arrived 
at the invention of hand-numerals, and that therefore 
the etymology of such numerals remains obvious. But 
it by no means follows from the non-apf)earance of such 
primitive forms in cultured Asia and Europe, that they did 
not exist there in remote ages ; they may since have been 
rolled and battered like pebbles by the stream of time, till 
their original shapes can no longer be made out. Lastly, 
among savage and civilized races alike, the general frame- 
work of numeration stands throughout the world as an 



abiding monument of primaeval culture. This framework, 
the all but universal scheme of reckoning by fives, tens, and 
twenties, shows that the childish and savage practice of 
counting on fingers and toes lies at the foundation of our 
arithmetical science. Ten seems the most convenient 
arithmetical basis offered by systems founded on hand- 
counting, but twelve would have been better, and duodecimal 
arithmetic is in fact a protest against the less convenient 
decimal arithmetic in ordinary use. The case is the not 
uncommon one of high civilization bearing evident traces of 
the rudeness of its origin in ancient barbaric life. 



Mythic Fancy based, like other thought, on Experience — ^Mythology affords 
evidence for studying laws of I m agination- Change in public opinion as 
to credibility of Myths — Myths rationalized into Allegory and History 
— Ethnological import and treatment of Myth — Myth to be studied 
in actual existence and growth among modern savages and barbarians 
— Original sources of Myth — Early doctrine of general animation of 
Nature — Personification of Sun, Moon, and Stars ; Water-spout, Sand 
pillar, Rainbow, Waterfall, Pestilence — Analogy worked into Myth 
and Metaphor — Myths of Rain, Thunder, &c. — Effect of Language in 
formation of Myth — Material Personification primary. Verbal Personi- 
fication secondary — Grammatical Gender, male and female, animate 
and inanimate, in relation to Myth — Proper Names of objects in relation 
to Myth — Mental State proper to promote mythic imagination — Doctrine 
of Werewolves — Phantasy alhd Fancy. 

'^MONG those opinions which are produced by a little know- 
ledge, to be dispelled by a little more, is the belief in an 
almost boundless creative power of the human imagina- 
tion. The superficial student, mazed in a crowd of seem- 
ingly wild and lawless fancies, which he thinks to have no 
reason in nature nor pattern in this material world, at first 
concludes them to be new births from the imagination of 
the poet, the tale-teller, and the seer. But little by little, in 
what seemed the most spontaneous fiction, a more compre- 
hensive study of the sources of poetry and romance begins 
to disclose a cause for each fancy, an education that has led 
up to each train of , thought, a store of inherited materials 
from out of which each province of the poet's land has been 
shaped, and built over, and peopled. Backward from our 
own times, the course of mental history may be traced 




through the changes wrought by modem Schools of thought 
and fancy, upon an intellectual inheritance handed down 
to them from earlier generations. And through remoter 
periods, as we recede more nearly towards primitive condi- 
tions of our race, the threads which connect new thought 
with old do not always vanish from our sight. It is in 
large measure possible to follow them as clues leiading back 
to that actual experience of nature and life, which is the 
ultimate source of human fancy. '''^Vhat Matthew Arnold 
has written of Man’s thoughts as he floats along the River 
of Time, is most true of his mythic imagination : — 

* As is the world on the banks 
So is the mind of the man. 

Only the tract where he sails 
He wots of : only the thoughts, 

Raised by the objects he passes, are his.’ 

Impressions thus received the mind will modify and work 
upon, transmitting the products to other minds in shapes 
that often seem new, strange, and arbitrary, but which yet 
result from processes familiar to cur experience, and to be 
found at work in our own individual consciousness. The 
office of our thought is to develop, to combine, and to 
derive, rather than to create ; and the consistent laws it 
works by are to be discerned even in the unsubstantial 
structures of the imagination. Here, as elsewhere in the 
universe, there is to be recognized a sequence from cause to 
effect, a sequence intelligible, definite, and where knowledge 
reaches the needful exactness, even calculable. 

There is perhaps no better subject-matter through which 
to study the processes of the imagination, than the well- 
marked incidents of mythical story, ranging as they do 
through every known period of civilization, and through all 
the ph5^ically varied tribes of mankind. Here the chvine 
Maui of New Zealand, fishing up the island with his en- 
chanted hook from the bottom of the sea, will take his place 
in company with the Indian Vishnu, diving tothe depthof the 



ocean in his avatar of theJBoar, to bring up the submerged 
earth on his monstrous tusks ; and here Baiame the creator, 
whose voice the rude Australians hear in the rolling 
thunder, will sit throned by the side of Olympian Zeus 
himself. Starting with the bold rough nature-m5rths into 
which the savage moulds the lessons he has learnt from his 
childlike contemplation of the universe, the ethnographer 
can follow these rude fictions up into times when they were 
shaped and incorporated into complex mythologic systems, 
gracefully artistic in Greece, stiff and monstrous in Mexico, 
swelled into bombastic exaggeration in Buddhist Asia. He 
can watch how the mythology of classic Europe, once so 
true to nature and so quick with her ceaseless life, fell 
among the commentators to be plastered with allegory or 
euhemerized into dull sham history. At last, in the midst 
of modem civilization, he finds the classic volumes studied 
rather for their manner than for their matter, or mainly 
valued for their antiquarian evidence of the thoughts of 
former times ; while relics of structures reared with skill 
and strength by the myth-makers of the past must now be 
sought in scraps of qursery folk-lore, in vulgar superstitions 
and old dying legends, in thoughts and allusions carried on 
from ancient days by the perennial stream of poetry and 
romance, in fragments of old opinion which still hold an in- 
herited rank gained in past ages of intellectual history. 
But this turning of mythology to account as a means of 
tracing the history of laws of mind, is a branch of science 
scarcely discovered till the nineteenth century. Before 
entering here on some researches belonging to it, there will 
be advantage in glancing at the views of older mythologists, 
to show through what changes their study has at length 
reached a condition in which it has a scientific value. 

It is a momentous phase of the education of mankind, 
when the regularity of nature has so imprinted itself upon 
men's minds that they begin to wonder how it is that the 
ancient legends which they were brought up to hear with 
such reverent delight, should describe a world so strangely 



different from their own. Why, they ask, are the gods and 
giants and monsters no longer seen to lead their prodigious 
lives on earth — ^is it perchance that the course of things is 
changed since the old days ? Thus it seemed to Pausanias 
the historian, that the wide-grown wickedness of the world 
had brought it to pass that times were no longer as of old, 
when Lykaon was turned into a wolf, and Niobe into a 
stone, when men still sat as guests at table with the gods, 
or were raised like Herakles to become gods themselves. 
Up to modem times, the hypothesis of a changed world has 
more or less availed to remove the difficulty of belief in 
ancient wonder-tales. Yet though always holding firmly a 
partial ground, its application was soon limited for these 
obvious reasons, that it justified falsehood and truth alike 
with even-handed favour, and utterly broke down that 
barrier of probability which in some measure has always 
separated fact from fancy. The Greek mind found other 
outlets to the problem. In the words of Mr. Grote, the 
ancient legends were cast back into an undefined past, to 
take rank among the hallowed traditions of divine or heroic 
antiquity, gratifying to extol by rhetQric, but repulsive to 
scrutinize in argument. Or they were transformed into 
shapes more familiar to experience, as when Plutarch, 
telling the tale of Theseus, begs for indulgent hearers to 
accept mildly the archaic story, and assures them that he 
has set himself to purify it by reason, that it may receive 
the aspect of history.' This process of giving fable the 
aspect of history, this profitless art of transforming untrue 
impossibilities into untrue possibilities, has been carried on 
by the ancients, and by the moderns after them, especially 
according to the two following methods. 

'^cn have for ages been more or less conscious of that 
great mental district lying between disbelief and belief, where 
room is found for all mythic interpretation, good or bad. 
It being admitted that some legend is not the real narrative 

' Grote, ‘ History of Greece,* vol. i. chaps, ix. xi. ; Pausanias viii. 2 ; 
Plutarch. Theseus i . 



which it purports to be, they do not thereupon wipe it out 
from book and memory as simply signifying nothing, but 
they ask what original sense may be in it, out of what older 
story it may be a second growth, or what actual event or 
current notion may have suggested its development into 
the state in which they find it ? Such questions, however, 
prove almost as easy to answer plausibly as to set ; and 
then, in the endeavour to obtain security that these off-hand 
answers are the true ones, it becomes evident that the problem 
admits of an indefinite number of apparent solutions, not 
only different but incompatible. This radical uncertainty 
in the speculative interpretation of myths is forcibly stated 
by Lord Bacon, in the preface to his ‘ Wisdom of the 
Ancients.' ' Neither am I ignorant,' he says, ‘ how fickle 
and inconsistent a thing fiction is, as being subject to be 
drawn and wrested any way, and how great the commodity 
of wit and discourse is, that is able to apply things well, yet 
so as never meant by the first authors.' The need of such 
a caution may be judged of from the very treatise to which 
Bacon prefaced it, for there he is to be seen plunging head- 
long into the very pitfall of which he had so discreetly 
warned his disciples. He undertakes, after the manner of 
not a few philosophers before and after him, to interpret 
the classic myths of Greece as moral allegories. Thus the 
story of Memnon depicts the destinies of rash young men 
of promise ; while Perseus symbolizes war, and when of the 
three Gorgons he attacks only the mortal one, this means 
that only practicable wars are to be attempted. It would 
not be easy to bring out into a stronger light the difference 
between a fanciful application of a myth, and its analysis 
into its real elements. For here, where the interpreter be- 
lieved himself to be reversing the process of myth-making, 
he was in fact only carrying it a stage further in the old 
direction, and out of the suggestion of one train of thought 
evolving another connected with it by some more or less 
remote analogy. Any of us may practise this simple art, 
each according to his own fancy. If, for instance, political 



economy happens for the moment to lie uppermost in our 
mind, we may with due gravity expound the story of 
Perseus as an allegory of trade : Perseus himself is Labour, 
and he finds Andromeda, who is Profit, chained and ready 
‘to be devoured by the monster Capital ; he rescues her 
and carries her off in triumph. To know anything of 
poetry or of mysticism is to know this reproductive growth 
of fancy as an admitted and admired intellectual process. 
But when it comes to sober investigation of the processes 
of mythology, the attempt to penetrate to the foundation 
of an old fancy will scarcely be helped by burying it yet 
deeper underneath a new one. 

v/ Nevertheless, allegory has had a share in the development 
of myths which no interpreter must overlook. ‘ The fault of 
the rationalizer lay in taking allegory beyond its proper 
action, and applying it as a universal solvent to reduce dark 
stories to transparent sense. The same is true of the other 
great rationalizing process, founded also, to some extent, on 
fact. Nothing is more certain than that real personages 
often have mythic incidents tacked on to their history, and 
that they even figure in tales of which the very substance is 
mythic. No one disbelieves in the existence of Solomon 
because of his legendary adventure in the Valley of Apes,^ 
nor of Attila because he figures in the Nibelungen Lied. Sir 
Francis Drake is made not less but more real to us by the 
cottage tales which tell how he still leads the Wild Hunt 
over Dartmoor, and still rises to his revels when they beat 
at Buckland Abbey the drum that he carried round the 
world. ^The mixture of fjtct and fable in traditions of great 
men shows that legends containing monstrous fancy may 
yet have a basis in historic fact. But, on the strength of this, 
the mythologists arranged systematic methods of reducing 
legend to history, and thereby contrived at once to stultify 
the mythology they professed to explain, and to ruin the 
history they professed to develop.** So far as the plan 
consisted in mere suppression of the marvellous, a notion of 
its trustworthiness may be obtained, as Sir G. W. Cox well 



puts it, in rationalizing Jack the Giant-Killer by leaving 
out the giants. So far as it treated legendary wonders as 
being matter-of-fact disguised in metaphor, the mere naked 
statement of the results of the method is to our minds its 
most cruel criticism. Thus already in classic times men 
were declaring that Atlas was a great astronomer who taught 
the use of the sphere, and was therefore represented with 
the world resting on his shoulders. To such a pass had 
come the decay of myth into commonplace, that the great 
Heaven-god of the Aryan race, the living personal Heaven 
himself, Zeus the Almighty, was held to have been a king 
of Krete, and the Kretans could show to wondering strangers 
his sepulchre, with the very name of the great departed 
inscribed upon it. The modern ‘ euhemerists ' (so called 
from Euhemeros of Messenia, a great professor of the art 
in the time of Alexander) in part adopted the old interpre- 
tations, and sometimes fairly left their Greek and Roman 
teachers behind in the race after prosaic possibility. They 
inform us that Jove smiting the giants with his thunderbolts 
was a king repressing a sedition ; Danae’s golden shower 
was the money with ^which her guards were bribed ; Pro- 
metheus made clay images, whence it was hyperbolically 
said that he created man and woman out of clay ; and when 
Daidalos was related to have made figures which walked, 
this meant that he improved the shapeless old statues, and 
separated their legs. Old men still remember as the guides 
of educated opinion in their youth the learned books in 
which these fancies are solemnly put forth ; some of our 
school manuals still go on quoting them with respect, and 
a few straggling writers carry on a remnant of the once 
famous system of which the Abbe Banier was so distin- 
guished an exponent.^ But it has of late fallen on evil days, 
and mythologists in authority have treated it in so high- 
handed a fashion as to bring it into general contempt. So 
far has the feeling against the abuse of such argument gone, 

^ See Banier, * La Mythologie et les Fables expliqu6es par THistoirc,* 
Paris, 1738 ; Lemprierc, ‘ Classical Dictionary,* &c. 

28 o 


that it is now really desirable to warn students that it has a 
reasonable as well as an unreasonable side, and to remind 
them that some wild legends imdoubtedly do, and therefore 
that many others may, contain a kernel of historic truth. 

Learned and ingenious as the old systems of rationalizing 
myth have been, there is no doubt that they are in great 
measure destined to be thrown aside. It is not that their 
interpretations are proved impossible, but that mere possi- 
bility in mythological speculation is now seen to be such 
a worthless commodity, that every investigator devoutly 
wishes there were not such plenty of it. In assigning 
origins to myths, as in every other scientific enquiry, the 
fact is that increased information, and the use of more 
stringent canons of evidence, have raised far above the old 
level the standard of probability required to produce con- 
viction. There are many who describe our own time as an 
unbelieving time, but it is by no means sure that posterity 
will accept the verdict. No doubt it is a sceptical and a 
critical time, but then scepticism and criticism are the very 
conditions for the attainment of reasonable belief. Thus, 
where the positive credence of ancjent history has been 
affected, it is not that the power of receiving evidence has 
diminished, but that the consciousness of ignorance has 
grown. We are being trained to the facts of physical 
science, which we can test and test again, and we feel it a 
fall from this high level of proof when we turn our minds 
to the old records which elude such testing, and are even 
admitted on all hands to contain statements not to be 
relied on. Historical criticism becomes hard and exacting, 
even where the chronicle records events not improbable in 
themselves ; and the moment that the story falls out of our 
scheme of the world’s habitual course, the ever repeated 
question comes out to meet it — Which is the more likely, 
that so unusual an event should have really happened, or 
that the record should be misunderstood or fake ? Tlius 
we gladly seek for sources of history in antiquarian relics, in 
imdesigned and collateral proofs, in documents not written 



to be chronicles. But can any reader of geology say we are 
too incredulous to believe wonders, if the evidence carry 
any fair warrant of their truth ? Was there ever a time 
when lost history was being reconstructed, and existing 
history rectified, more zealously than they are now by a 
whole army of travellers, excavators, searchers of old 
charters, and explorers of forgotten dialects ? The very 
m5d:hs that were discarded as lying fables, prove to be 
sources of history in ways that their makers and transmitters 
little dreamed of. Their meaning has been misunderstood, 
but they have a meaning. Every tale that was ever told 
has a meaning for the times it belongs to ; even a lie, as 
the Spanish proverb says, is a lady of birth (‘ la mentira es 
hija de algo '). Thus, as evidence of the development of 
thought, as records of long past belief and usage, even in 
some measure as materials for the history of the nations 
owning them, the old myths have fairly taken their place 
among historic facts ; and with such the modem historian, 
so able and willing to pull down, is also able and willing 
to rebuild. 

Of all things, "what tnythologic work needs is breadth of 
knowledge and of handling.^ Interpretations made to suit a 
narrow view reveal their weakness when exposed to a wide 
one. See Herodotus rationalizing the story of the infant 
Cyrus, exposed and suckled by a bitch ; he simply relates 
that the child was brought up by a herdsman's wife named 
Spako (in Greek Kyno), whence arose the fable that a real 
bitch rescued and fed him. So far so good — for a single 
case. But does the story of Romulus and Remus likewise 
record a real event, mystified in the self-same manner by 
a pun on a nurse's name, which happened to be a she- 
beast's ? Did the Roman twins also really happen to be 
exposed, and brought up by a foster-mother who happened 
to be called Lupa ? Positively, the * Lempriere's Diction- 
ary ' of our youth (I quote the i6th edition of 1831) gravely 
gives this as the origin of the famous legend. Yet, if we 
look properly into the matter, we find that these two stories 



are but specimens of a widespread mythic group, itself only 
a section of that far larger body of traditions in which 
exposed infants are saved to become national heroes. For 
other examples, Slavonic folk-lore tells of the she-wolf and 
she-bear that suckled those superhuman twins, Waligora 
the mountain-roller and Wyrwidab the oak-uprooter ; 
Germany has its legend of Dieterich, called Wolfdieterich 
from his foster-mother the she-wolf ; in India, the episode 
recurs in the tales of Satavahana and the lioness, and Sing- 
Baba and the tigress ; legend tells of Burta-Chino, the boy 
who was cast into a lake, and preserved by a she-wolf to 
become founder of the Turkish kingdom ; and even the 
savage Yuracarfe of Brazil tell of their divine hero Tiri, 
who was suckled by a jaguar.^ 

Scientific myth-interpretation, on the contrary, is actually 
strengthened by such comparison of similar cases. Where 
the effect of new knowledge has been to construct rather 
than to destroy, it is found that there are groups of myth- 
interpretations for which wider and deeper evidence makes 
a wider and deeper foundation. The principles which 
underlie a solid system of interpretation are really few and 
simple. The treatment of similar myths from different 
regions, by arranging them in large compared groups, makes 
it possible to trace in mythology the operation of imagina- 
tive processes recurring with the evident regularity of mental 
law ; and thus stories of which a single instance would have 
been a mere isolated curiosity, take their place among 
well-marked and consistent structures of the human mind. 
Evidence like this will again and again drive us to admit 
that even as ' truth is stranger than fiction,' so myth may 
be more uniform than history. 

There lies within our reach, moreover, the evidence of 

1 Hanusch, ‘ Slav. Myth.’ p. 323 ; Grimm, D. M. p. 363 ; Latham, 

‘ Dcscr. Eth.’ vol. ii. p. 448 ; I. J. Schmidt, ‘ Forschungen,’ p. 13 ; J. G. 
Miillcr, ‘ Amcr. Urrelig.’ p. 268. Sec also Plutarch. Parallela xxxvi. ; 
Campbell, ‘ Highland Tales,’ vol. i. p, 278 ; Max Mailer, ‘ Chips,’ vol. ii. 
p. 169 ; Tylor, ‘Wild Men and Beast-children,’ in Anthropological Review, 
May 1863. 



races both ancient and modem, who so faithfully represent 
the state of thought to which myth-development belongs, 
as still to keep up both the consciousness of meaning in 
their old myths, and the unstrained unaffected habit of 
creating new ones. Savages have been for untold ages, and 
still are, living in the myth-making stage of the human 
mind. It was through sheer ignorance and neglect of this 
direct knowledge how and by what manner of men myths 
are really made, that their simple philosophy has come tp 
be buried under masses of commentators' rubbish. Though 
never wholly lost, the secret of mythic interpretation was 
all but forgotten. Its recovery has been mainly due to 
modem students who have with vast labour and skill 
searched the ancient language, poetry, and folk-lore of our 
own race, from the cottage tales collected by the brothers 
Grimm to the Rig- Veda edited by Max Muller. Aryan 
language and literature now open out with wonderful 
range and clearness a view of the early stages of mythology, 
displaying those primitive germs of the poetry of nature, 
which later ages swelled and distorted till childlike fancy 
sank into superstitious mystery. It is not proposed here 
to enquire specially into this Aryan mythology, of which so 
many eminent students have treated, but to compare some of 
the most important developments of mythology among the 
various races of mankind, especially in order to determine 
the general relation of the myths of savage tribes to the 
myths of civilized nations. The argument does not aim at a 
general discussion of the mythology of the world, numbers 
of important topics being left untouched which would have 
to be considered in a general treatise. The topics chosen 
are mostly such as are fitted, by the strictness of evidence 
and argument applying to them, to make a sound basis for 
the treatment of myth as bearing on the general ethno- 
logical problem of the development of civilization. The 
general thesis maintained is that Myth arose in the savage 
condition prevalent in remote ages among the whole human 
race, that it remains comparatively unchanged among the 



modem rude tribes who have departed least from these 
primitive conditions, while even higher and later grades of 
civilization, partly by retaining its actual principles, and 
partly by carrying on its inherited results in the form of 
ancestral tradition, have continued it not merely in tolera- 
tion but in honour. 

To the human intellect in its early childlike state may be 
assigned the origin and first development of myth. It is 
tme that learned critics, taking up the study of mythology 
at the wrong end, have almost habitually failed to appre- 
ciate its childlike ideas, conventionalized in poetry or 
disguised as chronicle. Yet the more we compare the 
mythic fancies of different nations, in order to discern the 
common thoughts which underlie their resemblances, the 
more ready we shall be to admit that in our childhood we 
dwelt at the very gates of the realm of myth. In mythology, 
the child is, in a deeper sense than we are apt to use the 
phrase in, father of the man. Thus, when in surveying 
' the quaint fancies and wild legends of the lower tribes, we 
find the mythology of the world at once in its most distinct 
and most rudimentary form, we may here again claim the 
savage as a representative *of the clmdhood of the human 
race. Here Ethnology and Comparative Mythology go 
hand in hand, and the development of Myth forms a con- 
sistent part of the development of Culture. If savage 
races, as the nearest modem representatives of primaeval 
culture, show in the most distinct and unchanged state 
the rudimentary mythic conceptions thence to be traced 
onward in the course of ciyilizati6n, then it is reasonable 
for students to begin, so far as may be, at the beginning. 
Savage mythology may be taken as a basis, and then the 
myths of more civilized races may be displayed as com- 
positions sprung from like origin, though more advanced 
in art. This mode of treatment proves satisfactory through 
almost all the branches of the enquiry, and eminently so in 
investigating those most beautiful of poetic fictions, ta 
w^hich may be given the title of Nature-Myths. 



First and foremost among the causes which 
into myths the facts of daily experience, is the h« hf f m 
animation of all nature, rising at its highest pitch to per- 
sonification. This, no occasional or hypothetical action of 
the mind, is inextricably bound in with that primitive 
mental state where man recognizes in every detail of his 
world the operation of personal life and will. This doctrine 
of Animism will be considered elsewhere as affecting 
philosophy and religion, but here we have only to do with its 
bearing on mythology. To the lower tribes of man, sun 
and stars, trees and rivers, winds and clouds, become 
personal animate creatures, leading lives conformed to* 
human or animal analogies, and performing their special 
functions in the universe with the aid of limbs like beasts 
or of artificial instruments like men ; or what men's eyes 
behold is but the instrument to be used or the material to 
be shaped, while behind it there stands some prodigious but 
yet half-human creature, who grasps it with his hands or 
blows it with his breath. The basis on which such ideas 
as these are built is not to be narrowed down to poetic 
fancy and transformed metaphor. They rest upon a broad 
philosophy of nature, early and crude indeed, but thought- 
ful, consistent, and quite really and seriously meant. 

Let us put this doctrine of universal vitality to a test of 
direct evidence, lest readers new to the subject should 
suppose it a modem philosophical fiction, or think that if 
the lower races really express such a notion, they may do 
so only as a poetical way of talking. Even in civilized 
countries, it makes its appearance as the child's early 
theory of the outer world, nor can we fail to see how this 
comes to pass. The first beings that children learn to under - 
stand something of are human beings, and especially their 
own selves ; and the first explanation of all events will be 
the human explanation, as though chairs and sticks and 
wooden horses were actuated by the same sort of personal 
will as nurses and children and kittens. Thus infants take 
their first step in mythology by contriving, like Cosette 



with her doll, ' se figurer que quelque chose est quelqu'un ; ' 
and the way in which this childlike theory has to be 
unlearnt in the course of education shows how primitive 
it is. Even among full-grown civilized Europeans, as 
Mr. Grote appositely remarks, * The force of momentary 
passion will often suffice to supersede the acquired habit, 
and even an intelligent man may be impelled in a moment 
of agonizing pain to kick or beat the lifeless object from 
which he has suffered.* In such matters the savage mind 
well represents the childish stage. The wild native of 
Brazil would bite the stone he stumbled over, or the arrow 
that had wounded him. Such a mental condition may be 
traced along the course of history, not merely in impulsive 
habit, but in formally enacted law. The rude Kukis of 
Southern Asia were very scrupulous in carrying out their 
simple law of vengeance, life for life ; if a tiger killed a 
Kuki, his family were in disgrace till they had retaliated by 
killing and eating this tiger, or another ; but further, if a 
man was killed by a fall from a tree, his relatives would 
take their revenge by cutting the tree down, and scattering 
it in chips.' A modem king of Cochin-China, when one of 
his ships sailed badly, used to put it in the pillory as he 
would any other criminal.* In classical times, the stories 
of Xerxes flogging the Hellespont and Cyrus draining the 
Gyndes occur as cases in point, but one of the regular 
Athenian legal proceedings is a yet more striking relic. 
A court of justice was held at the Prytaneum, to try any 
inanimate object, such as an tLxe or a piece of wood or 
stone, which had caused^ the death of anyone without 
proved human agency, and this wood or stone, if con- 
demned, was in solemn form cast beyond the border.* 
The spirit of this remarkable procedure reappears in the 
old English law (repealed within the last reign), whereby not 

' Macrae in ‘ As. Res.* vol. vii. p. 189. 

* Bastian, ‘ Ocstl. Asien,* vol. i. p. 51. 

* Grote, vol. iii. p. 104 ; vol. v. p. 22 ; Herodot. i. 189 ; vii. 34 ; Porphyr, 
de Abstinentia, ii. 30 ; Pausan. i. 28 ; Pollux, * Onomasticon.* 



only a beast that kills a man, but a cart-wheel that runs over 
him, or a tree that falls on him and kills him, is deodand, or 
given to God, i.e. forfeited and sold for the poor : as Brac- 
ton sa5rs, * Omnia quae movent ad mortem sunt Deodanda.* 
Dr. Reid comments on this law, declaring that its intention 
was not to punish the ox or the cart as criminal, but ‘ to 
inspire the people with a sacred regard to the life of man.’^ 
But his argument rather serves to show the worthlessness 
of off-hand speculations on the origin of law, like his own 
in this matter, unaided by the indispensable evidence of 
history and ethnography. An example from modern folk- 
lore shows still at its utmost stretch this primitive fancy 
that inert things are alive and conscious. The pathetic 
custom of * telling the bees ' when the master or mistress 
of a house dies, is not unknown in our own country. But 
in Germany the idea is more fully worked out ; and not 
only is the sad message given to every bee-hive in the 
garden and every beast in the stall, but every sack of com 
must be touched and everything in the house shaken, that 
they may know the master is gone.* 

It will be seen presently how Animism, the doctrine of v 
spiritual beings, at once develops with and reacts upon 
mythic personification, in that early state of the human 
mind which gives consistent individual life to phenomena 
that our utmost stretch of fancy only avails to personify in 
conscious metaphor. An idea of pervading life and will in 
nature far outside modem limits, a belief in personal souls 
animating even what we call inanimate bodies, a theory of 
transmigration of souls as well in life as after death; a sense 
of crowi of spiritual beings sometimes flitting through the 
air, but sometimes also inhabiting trees and rocks and 
waterfalls, and so lending their own personality to such 
material objects — all these thoughts work in m5dhology 
with such manifold coincidence, as to make it hard indeed 
to unravel their separate action.® 

^ Reid, ‘ Essays/ vol. iii. p. 1 13. 

* Wuttke, ‘ Volksaberglaube/ p. zio. * Sec chap, xi. 



^^Such animistic origin of nature-myths shows out very 
clearly in the great cosmic group of Sun, Moon, and Stars. 
In early philosophy throughout the world, the Sun and 
Moon are alive and as it were human in their nature. 
Usually contrasted as male and female, they nevertheless 
differ in the sex assigned to each, as well as in their 
relations to one another. Among the Mbocobis of South 
America, the Moon is a man and the Sun his wife, and the 
story is told how she once fell down and an Indian put her 
up again, but she fell a second time and set the forest 
blazing in a deluge of lire.^ To display the opposite of this 
idea, and at the same time to illustrate the vivid fancy 
with which savages can personify the heavenly bodies, we 
may read the following discussion concerning eclipses, 
between certain Algonquin Indians and one of the early 
Jesuit missionaries to Canada in the 17th century, Father 
Le June : — ‘ Je leur ay demande d’ou venoit TEclipse de 
Lune et de Soleil ; ils m'ont respondu que la Lune s'6clip- 
soit ou paroissoit noire, k cause qu'elle tenoit son fils entre 
ses bras, qui empeschoit que Ton ne vist sa clarte. Si la 
Lune a un fils, elle est marife, ou leur dis-je. Oiiy 

dea, me dirent-ils, le Soleil est son mary, qui marche tout 
le jour, et elle toute la nuict ; et s'il s'eclipse, ou s'il 
s'obscurcit, c'est qu'il prend aussi par fois le fils qu'il a eu 
de la Lune entre ses bras. Oiiy, mais ny la Lune ny le 
Soleil n'ont point de bras, leur disois-je. Tu n'as point 
d'esprit ; ils tiennent tousiours leurs arcs band6s deuant 
eux, voilk pourquoy leurs bras ne paroissent point. Et sur 
qui veulent-ils tirer ? IJe qu’en scauons nous ? '* A 
mythologically important legend of the same race, the 
Ottawa story of Iosco, describes Sun and Moon as brother 
and sister. Two Indians, it is said, sprang through a 
chasm in the sky, and found themselves in a pleasant 

^ D’Orbigny, * L^Hommc Am^ricain,’ vol. ii. p. 102. See also De la 
Borde, * Caraibes,* p. 525. 

* Le Jcune in ‘Relations des Jisuites dans la Nouvelle France/ 1634^ 
p. 26. See Charlevoix, ‘ Nouvelle France/ vol. ii. p. 170. 



moonlit land ; there they saw the Moon approaching as 
from behind a hill, they knew her at the first sight, she was 
an aged woman with white face and pleasing air; speaking 
kindly to them, she led them to her brother the Sim, and 
he carried them with him in his course and sent them home 
with promises of happy life.^ As the Egyptian Osiris and 
Isis were at once brother and sister, and husband and wife, so 
it was with the Peruvian Sun and Moon, Ynti and Quilla, 
father and mother of the Incas, whose sister-marriage thus 
had in their religion at once a meaning and a justification.* 
The myths of other countries, where such relations of sex 
may not appear, carry on the same lifelike personification in 
telling the ever-reiterated, never tedious tale of day and 
night. Thus to the Mexicans it was an ancient hero who, 
when the old sun was burnt out, and had left the world in 
darkness, sprang into a huge fire, descended into the shades 
below, and arose deified and glorious in the east as Tonatiuh 
the Sun. After him there leapt in another hero, but now 
the fire had grown dim, and he arose only in milder radiance 
as Metztli the Moon.* 

If it be objected tl^at all this may be mere expressive 
form of speech, like a modern poet's fanciful metaphor, 
there is evidence which no such objection can stand against. 
When the Aleutians thought that if anyone gave offence 
to the moon, he would fling down stones on the offender 
and kill him,^ or when the moon came down to an Indian 
squaw, appearing in the form of a beautiful woman with a 
child in her arms, and demanding an offering of tobacco 
and fur robes, what conceptions of personal life could be 

^ Schoolcraft, ‘ Algic Researches,* vol. ii. p. 54 ; compare ‘ Tanner’s 
Narrative,’ p. 317 ; see also ‘ Prose Edda,* i. n ; * Early Hist, of Mankind,’ 
P- 327- . , . 

* Prescott, ‘ Peru,’ vol. i. p. 86 ; Garcilaso de la Vega, ‘ Comm. Real.* 1. 
c. 15. iii. c. zi. 

* Torquemada, ‘ Monarquia Indiana,’ vi. 42 ; Clavigero, vol. ii. p. 9 ; 
Sahagun in Kingsborough, ‘ Antiquities of Mexico.* 

^ Bastian, ‘ Mensch,’ vol. ii. p. 59. 

* Le Jeune, in * Relations des J^suites dans la Nouvelle France,’ 1639, 

p. 88. 



more distinct than these ? When the Apache Indian 
pointed to the sky and asked the white man, ‘ Do you 
not believe that God, this Sun (que Dios, este Sol), sees 
what we do and punishes us when it is evil ? * it is im- 
possible to say that this savage was talking in rhetorical 
simile.^ There was something in the Homeric contemplation 
of the living personal Helios, that was more and deeper 
than metaphor. Even in far later ages, we may read of the 
outcry that arose in Greece against the astronomers, those 
blasphemous materialists who denied, not the divinity only, 
but the very personality of the sun, and declared him a 
huge hot ball. Later again, how vividly Tacitus brings to 
view the old personification dying into simile among the 
Romans, in contrast with its still enduring religious vigour 
among the German nations, in the record of Boiocalcus 
pleading before the Roman legate that his tribe should 
not be driven from their lands. Looking toward the sun, 
and calling on the other heavenly bodies as though, says 
the historian, they had been there present, the German 
chief demanded of them if it were their will to look down 
upon a vacant soil? (Solem deind/^ respiciens, et caetera 
sidera vocans, quasi coram interrogabat, vellentnc contueri 
inane solum ?)* 

So it is with the stars. Savage mythology contains 
many a story of them, agreeing through all other difference 
in attributing to them animate life. They are not merely 
talked of in fancied personality, but personal action is attri- 
buted to them, or they are even declared once to have lived 
on earth. The natives pf Australia not only say the stars 
in Orion's belt and scabbard are young men dancing a 
corroboree ; they declare that Jupiter, whom they call 
* Foot of Day ' (Ginabong-Bearp), was a chief among the 
Old Spirits, that ancient race who were translated to heaven 
before man came on earth.® The Esquimaux did not stop 
short at calling the stars of Orion’s belt the Lost Ones, and 

^ Frocbel, ‘ Central America,’ p. 490. * Tac. Ann. xiii. 55. 

* Stanbridge, in ‘ Tr. Eth. Soc.* vol. i. p. 301. 



telling a tale of their being seal-hunters who missed their 
way home ; but they distinctly held that the stars were in 
old times men and animals, before they went up into the 
sky.^ So the North American Indians had more than 
superficial meaning in calling the Pleiades the Dancers, and 
the moming-star the Day-bringer ; for among them stories 
are told like that of the lowas, of the star that an Indian 
had long gazed upon in childhood, and who came down and 
talked with him when he was once out hunting, weary and 
luckless, and led him to a place where there was much 
game.* The Kasia of Bengal declare that the stars were once 
men : they climbed to the top of a tree (of course the great 
heaven-tree of the mythology of so many lands), but others 
below cut the trunk and left them up there in the branches.® 
With such savage conceptions as guides, the original mean- 
ing in the familiar classic personification of stars can 
scarcely be doubted. The explicit doctrine of the anima- 
tion of stars is to be traced ^through past centuries, and 
down to our own. Origen declares that the stars are 
animate and rational, moved with such order and reason as 
it would be absurd to say irrational creatures could fulfil. 
Pamphilius, in his apology for this Father, lays it down 
that whereas some have held the luminaries of heaven to be 
animate and rational creatures, while others have held them 
mere spiritless and senseless bodies, no one may call 
another a heretic for holding either view, for there is no 
open tradition on the subject, and even ecclesiastics have 
thought diversely of it.* It is enough to mention here the 
well-known medieval doctrine of star-souls and star-angcls, 
so intimately mixed up with the delusions of astrology. In 
our own time the theory of the animating souls of stars 
finds still here and there an advocate, and De Maistre, 

^ Cranz, * Gronland,’ p. 295 ; Hayes, ‘ Arctic Boat Journey,’ p. 254. 

® Schoolcraft, ‘ Indian Tribes,’ part iii. p. 276 ; see also De la Borde, 

* Caraibes,’ p. 525. 

® H. Yule in ‘ Journ. As. Soc. Bengal,’ vol. xiii. (1844), P* 

* Origen. de Principiis, i. 7, 3 j Pamphil. Apolog. pro Origine, ix. 84. 



prince and leader of reactionary philosophers, maintains 
against modem astronomers the ancient doctrine of per- 
sonal will in astronomic motion, and even the theory of 
animated planets.* 

Poetry has so far kept alive in our minds the old anima- 
tive theory of nature, that it is no great effort to us to fancy 
the waterspout a huge giant or sea-monster, and to depict 
in what we call appropriate metaphor its march across the 
fields of ocean. But where such forms of speech are current 
among less educated races, they are underlaid by a distinct 
prosaic meaning of fact. Thus the waterspouts which the 
Japanese see so often off their coasts are to them long-tailed 
dragons, ' flying up into the air with a swift and violent 
motion,* wherefore they call them ‘ tatsmaki,* * spouting 
dragons.** Waterspouts are believed by some Chinese to 
be occasioned by the ascent and descent of the dragon ; 
although the monster is never seen head and tail at once for 
clouds, fishermen and sea-side folk catch occasional glimpses 
of him ascending from the water and descending to it.* 
In the mediaeval Chronicle of John of Bromton there is 
mentioned a wonder which happens about once a month in 
the Gulf of Satalia, on the Pamphylian coast. A great 
black dragon seems to come in the clouds, letting down his 
head into the waves, while his tail seems fixed to the sky, 
and this dragon draws up the waves to him with such avidity 
that even a laden ship would be taken up on high, so that to 
avoid this danger the crews ought to shout and beat boards 
to drive the dragon off. However, concludes the chronicler, 
some indeed say that this is not a dragon, but the sun draw- 
ing up the water, which seems more true.* The Moslems still 
account for waterspouts as caused by gigantic demons, such 
as that one described in the ‘ Arabian Nights :* — ‘ The sea 

* Dc Maistre, * Soirees de Saint-P^tcrsbourg,’ vol. ii. p. 210, ace 184. 

* Kaempfer, ‘ Japan,’ in Pinkerton, vol. vii. p. 684. 

•Doolittle, ‘Chinese,’ vol. ii. p. 265 ; see Ward, ‘Hindoos,’ vol. i. p. 140 
(Indra’s elephants drinking). 

* Chron. Joh. Bromton, in * Hist, Angl. Scriptores,’ x. Ric. I. p. 1216. 



became troubled before them, and there arose from it a 
black pillar, ascending towards the sky, and approaching the 
meadow . . . and behold it was a Jinneie, of gigantic 
stature.' ^ The difficulty in interpreting language like this 
is to know how far it is seriously and how far fancifully 
iTieant. But this doubt in no way goes against its original 
animistic meaning, of which there can be no question in the 
following story of a * great sea-serpent ' current among a 
barbarous East African tribe. A chief of the Wanika told 
Dr. Krapf of a great serpent which is sometimes seen out 
at sea, reaching from the sea to the sky, and appearing 
especially during heavy rain. ' I told them/ says the 
missionary, ‘ that this was no serpent, but a waterspout.'* 
Out of the similar phenomenon on land there has arisen a 
similar group of myths. The Moslem fancies the whirling 
sand-pillar of the desert to be caused by the flight of an evil 
jinn, and the East African simply calls it a demon (p'hepo). 
To traveller after traveller who gazes on these monstrous 
shapes gliding majestically across the desert, the thought 
occurs that the well-remembered ' Arabian Nights' ' descrip- 
tions rest upon personifications of the sand-pillars them- 
selves, as the gigantic demons into which fancy can even 
now so naturally shape them.* 

Rude and distant tribes agree in the conception of the 
Rainbow as a living monster. New 2Sealand myth, describ- 
ing the battle of the Tempest against the Forest, tells how 
the Rainbow arose and placed his mouth close to Tane-ma- 
huta, the Father of Trees, and continued to assault him till 
his trunk was snapt in two, and his broken branches strewed 
the ground.* It is not only in mere nature-myth like this, 
but in actual awe-struck belief and terror, that the idea of the 

* Lane, * Thousand and one N.’ vol. i. p. 30, 7. 

* Krapf, ‘ Travels,’ p. 198. 

* Lane, ibid, pp. 30, 4Z ; Burton, ‘ El Medinah and Meccah,’ vol. ii. p. 69 ; 
‘ Lake Regions,’ vol. i. p. 297 ; J. D. Hooker, ‘ Himalayan Journals,’ vol. i. 
p. 79; Tylor, ‘Mexico,’ p. 30; Tyerman and Bennet, vol. ii. p. 362. [Hindu 
pi9acha= demon, whirlwind.] 

* Taylor, ‘ New Zealand,’ p. 121. 

I. — u 



live Rainbow is worked out. The Karens of Burma say it is 
a spirit or demon. 'The Rainbow can devour men. . . . 
When it devours a person, he dies a sudden or violent 
death. All persons that die badly, by falls, by drowning, 
or by wild beasts, die because the Rainbow has devoured 
their ka-la, or spirit. On devouring persons it becomes 
thirsty and comes down to drink, when it is seen in the sky 
drinking water. Therefore when people see the Rainbow, 
they say, " The Rainbow has come to drink water. Look 
out, sopie one or other will die violently by an evil death/' 
If children are playing, their parents will say to them, " The 
Rainbow has come down to drink. Play no more, lest some 
accident should happen to you." And after the Rainbow 
has been seen, if any fatal accident happens to anyone, it is 
said the Rainbow has devoured him.' ^ The Zulu ideas 
correspond in a curious way with these. The Rainbow lives 
with a snake, that is, where it is there is also a snake ; or 
it is like a sheep, and dw'ells in a pool. When it touches 
the earth, it is drinking at a pool. Men are afraid to 
wash in a large pool ; they say there is a Rainbow in it, and 
if a man goes in, it catches and eats him. The Rainbow, 
coming out of a river or pool and resting on the ground, 
poisons men whom it meets, affecting them with eruptions. 
Men say, ' The Rainbow is disease. If it rests on a man, 
something will happen to him.'^ Lastly in Dahome, Danh 
the Heavenly Snake, which makes the Pop>o beads and 
confers wealth on man, is the Rainbow.® 

To the theory of Animism belong those endless tales 
which all nations tell of ‘the presiding genii of nature, the 
spirits of cli£fs,wells,waterfalls, volcanoes, the elves and wood 
nymphs seen at times by human eyes when wandering by 
moonlight or assembled at their fairy festivals. Such beings 
may personify the natural objects they belong to, as when, 
in a North American tale, the guardian spirit of waterfalls 

^ Maaoni ' Karens/ in * Journ. As. Soc. Bengal/ 1865, part ii. p. Z17. 

® Callaway, ' Zulu Tales,’ vol. 1 . p. 294. 

® Burton, * Dahome,* vol. ii. p. 148 ; see 242. 



rushes through the lodge as a raging current, bearing rocks 
and trees along in its tremendous course, and then the 
guardian spirit of the islands of Lake Superior enters in 
the guise of rolling waves covered with silver-sparkling 
foam.^ Or they may be guiding and power-giving spirits of 
nature, like the spirit Fugamu, whose work is the cataract 
of the Nguyai, and who still wanders night and day around 
it, though the negroes who tell of him can no longer see his 
bodily form.* The belief prevailing through the lower 
culture that the diseases which vex mankind are brought 
by individual personal spirits, is one which has produced 
striking examples of mythic development. Thus in Burma 
the Karen lives in terror of the mad ‘ la,' the epileptic ' la/ 
and the rest of the seven evil demons who go about seeking 
his life ; and it is with a fancy not many degrees removed 
from this early stage of thought that the Persian sees in 
bodily shape the apparition of Al, the scarlet fever : — 

* Would you know Al ? she seems a blushing maid, 

With locks of flame and cheeks all rosy red.’ * 

It is with this deep*old spiritualistic belief clearly in view 
that the ghastly tales are to be read where pestilence and 
death come on their errand in weird human shape. To the 
mind of the Israelite, death and pestilence took the personal 
form of the destroying angel who smote the doomed.* When 
the great plague raged in Justinian's time, men saw on the 
sea brazen barks whose crews were black and headless men, 
and where they landed, the pestilence broke out.® When 
the plague fell on Rome in Gregory's time, the saint rising 
from prayer saw Michael standing with his bloody sword 
on Hadrian's castle — the archangel stands there yet in 
bronze, giving the old fort its newer name of the Castle of 

^ Schoolcraft, ‘ Algic Res.* vol. ii. p. 148. 

‘ Du Chaillu, * Ashango-land,* p. 106. 

* Jas. Atkinson, * Customs of the Women of Persia,’ p. 49. 

* 2 Sam. xxiv. 16 ; 2 Kings xix. 35. 

B G. S. Assemanni, * Bibliotheca Orientalis,’ ii. 86. 



St. Angelo. Among a whole group of stories of the pes- 
tilence seen in personal shape travelling to and fro in the 
land, perhaps there is none more vivid than this Slavonic 
cme. ' There sat a Russian under a larch-tree, and the 
sunshine glared like fire. He saw something coming from 
afar ; he looked again — it was the Pest-maiden, huge of 
stature, all shrouded in linen, striding towards him. He 
would have fled in terror, but the form grasped him with 
her long outstretched hand. Knowest thou the Pest ? '' 
she said ; I am she. Take me on thy shoulders and carry 
me through all Russia ; miss no village, no town, for I 
must visit all. But fear not for thyself, thou shalt be safe 
amid the dying.” Clinging with her long hands, she clam- 
bered on the peasant's back ; he stepped onward, saw the 
form above him as he went, but felt no burden. First he 
bore her to the towns ; they found there joyous dance and 
song ; but the fonn waved her linen shroud, and joy and 
mirth were gone. As the wretched man looked round, 
he saw mourning, he heard the tolling of the bells, there 
came funeral processions, the graves could not hold the 
dead. He passed on, and coming n^ar each village heard 
the shriek of the dying, saw all faces white in the desolate 
houses. But high on the hill stands his own hamlet : 
his wife, his little children are there, and the aged parents, 
and his heart bleeds as he draws near. With strong gripe 
he holds the maiden fast, and plunges with her beneath 
the waves. He sank : she rose again, but she quailed before 
a heart so fearless, and ^ed far away to the forest and the 
mountain.' ^ 

Yet, if mythology be surveyed in a more comprehensive 
view, it is seen that its animistic development falls within a 
broader generalization still. The explanation of the course 
and change of nature, as caused by life such as the life of 
the thinking man who gazes on it, is but a part of a far 
wider mental process. It belongs to that great doctrine of 

^ Hanusch, ‘Slav. My thus,’ p. 322. Compare Torquemada, ‘Monarquia 
Indiana, i. c. 14 ( Mexico) } Bastian, * Psychologie,’ p. 197. 



analogy, from which we have gained so much of our appre- 
hension of the world around us. Distrusted as it now is by 
severer science for its misleading results, analogy is still to 
us a chief means of discovery and illustration, while in 
earlier grades of education its influence was all but para- 
mount. Analogies which are but fancy to us were to men 
of past ages reality. They could see the flame licking its 
yet undevoured prey with tongues of fire, or the serpent 
gliding along the waving sword from hilt to point ; they 
could feel a live creature gnawing within their bodies in the 
pangs of hunger ; they heard the voices of the hill-dwarfs 
answering in the echo, and the chariot of the Heaven-god 
rattling in thunder over the solid firmament. Men to whom 
these were living thoughts had no need of the schoolmaster 
and his rules of composition, his injunctions to use metaphor 
cautiously, and to take continual care to make all similes 
consistent. The similes of the old bards and oratoi*s were 
consistent, because they seemed to see and hear and feel 
them : what we call poetry was to them real life, not as to 
the modern versemaker a masquerade of gods and heroes, 
shepherds and shepherdesses, stage heroines and philosophic 
savages in paint and feathers. It was with a far deeper 
consciousness that the circumstance of nature was worked 
out in endless imaginative detail in ancient days and among 
uncultured races. 

Uj)on the sky above the hill-country of Orissa, Pidzu 
Pennu, the Rain-god of the Khonds, rests as he pours down 
the showers through his sieve.* Over Peru there stands a 
princess with a vase of rain, and when her brother strikes 
the pitcher, men hear the shock in thunder and see the flash 
in lightning.* To the old Greeks the rainbow seemed 
stretched down by Jove from heaven, a purple sign of war 
and tempest, or it was the personal Iris, messenger between 
gods and men.* To the South Sea Islander it was the 

* Macphcrson, * India,’ p. 357. 

* Markham, ‘ Quichua Gr. and Die.* p. 9. 

* Welcker, * Griech. Gottcrl.’ vol. i. p. 690. 



heaven-ladder where heroes of old climbed up and down ; ^ 
and so to the Scandinavian it was Bifrost, the trembling 
bridge, timbered of three hues and stretched from sky to 
earth ; while in German folk-lore it is the bridge where the 
souls of the just are led by their guardian angels across to 
paradise.* As the Israelite called it the bow of Jehovah in 
the clouds, it is to the Hindu the bow of Rama,* and to 
the Finn the bow of Tiermes the Thunderer, who slays 
with it the sorcerers that hunt after men's lives ; * it is 
imagined, moreover, as a gold-embroidered scarf, a head- 
dress of feathers, St. Bernard's crown, or the sickle of an 
Esthonian deity.* And yet through all such endless varieties 
of mythic conception, there runs one main principle, the 
evident suggestion and analogy of nature. It has been 
said of the savages of North America, that ' there is always 
something actual and physical to ground an Indian fancy 
on.'* The saying goes too far, but within limits it is em- 
phatically true, not of North American Indians alone, but 
of mankind. 

'/Such resemblances as have just been displayed thrust 
themselves directly on the mind, without any necessary in- 
tervention of words. Deep as language lies in our mental 
life, the direct comparison of object with object, and action 
with action, lies yet deeper. The myth-maker's mind shows 
forth even among the deaf-and-dumb, who work out just 
such analogies of nature in their wordless thought. Again 
and again they have been found to suppose themselves 
taught by their guardians to worship and pray to sun, moon, 
and stars, as personal creatures. Others have described 
their early thoughts of the heavenly bodies as analogous to 
things within their reach, one fancying the moon made like 
a dumpling and rolled over the tree-tops like a marble across 

' Ellis, ‘ Polyn. Res.' vol. i. p 231 ; Polack, ‘ New Z' vol. i. p. 273. 

* Grimm, * D. M.* pp. 694-6. 

* Ward, * Hindoos,* vol. i. p. 140. 

* Castren, ‘ Finnischc Mythologic,* pp. 48, 49. 

* Delbriick in Lazarus and Steinthal’s Zcitschrift, vol. iii. p. 269. 

^ Schoolcraft, part iii. p. 520. 



a table, and the stars cut out with great scissors and stuck 
against the sky, while another supposed the moon a furnace 
and the stars fire-grates, which the people above the firma- 
ment light up as we kindle fires.^ Now the mythology of 
mankind at large is full of conceptions of nature like these, 
and to assume for them no deeper original source than meta- 
phorical phrases, would be to ignore one of the great transi- 
tions of our intellectual history. 

Lpigui^, there is no doubt, has had a great share in the 
formation of myth. The mere fact of its individualizing in 
words such notions as winter and summer, cold and heat, 
war and peace, vice and vivtvtfe. gives the mythimiaj^r the 
means of imagining these thoughts as personal beings. 
Language not only acts in thorough unison with the imagi- 
nation whose product it expresses, but it goes on producing 
of itself, and thus, by the side of the mythic conceptions in 
which language has followed imagination, we have others in 
which language has led, and imagination has followed in the 
track. These two actions coincide too closely for their 
effects to be thoroughly separated, but they should be dis- 
tinguished as far as possible. For myself, I am disposed 
to think (differing here in some measure from Professor 
Max Muller’s view of the subject) that the mythology of the 
lower races rests especially on a basis of real and sensible 
analogy, and that the great expansion of verbal metaphor 
into myth belongs to more advanced periods of civilization. 
In a word, I take material myth to be the primary, and 
verbal myth to be the secondary formation. But whether 
this opinion be historically sound or not, the difference in 
nature between myth founded on fact and myth founded on 
word is sufficiently manifest. The want of reality in verbal 
metaphor cannot be effectually hidden by the utmost stretch 
of imagination. In spite of this essential weakness, however, 
the habit of realizing everything that words can describe is 

1 Sicard, ‘ Th^orie dea Signea, &c.’ Paris 1808, vol. ii. p. 634 ; * Personal 
Recollections* by Charlotte Elizabeth, London, 1841, p. 182; Dr. Orpen, 
‘ The Contrast,’ p. 25. Compare Meinera, vol. i. p. 42. 



one which has grown and flourished in the world. Descrip- 
tive names become personal, the notion of personality 
stretches to take in even the most abstract notions to which 
a name may be applied, and realized name, epithet, and 
metaphor pass into interminable mythic growths by the 
process which Max Muller has so aptly characterized as ' a 
disease of language.* It would be difficult indeed to define 
the exact thought lying at the root of every mythic concep- 
tion, but in easy cases the course of formation can be quite 
well followed. North American tribes have personified 
Nipinukhe and Pipunukhe, the beings who bring the spring 
(nipin) and the winter (pipun) ; Nipinukhe brings the heat 
and birds and verdure, Pipunukhe ravages with his cold 
winds, his ice and snow ; one comes as the other goes, and 
between them they divide the world.^ Just such personifi- 
cation as this furnishes the staple of endless nature- 
metaphor in our own European poetry. In the springtime 
it comes to be said that May has conquered Winter, his 
gate is open, he has sent letters before him to tell the fruit 
that he is coming, his tent is pitched, he brings the woods 
their summer clothing.* Thus, when^ Night is personified, 
we see how it comes to pass that Day is her son, and ho^^' 
each in a heavenly chariot drives round the world. To 
minds in this mythologic stage, the Curse becomes a per- 
sonal being, hovering in space till it can light upon its 
victim ; Time and Nature arise as real entities ; Fate and 
Fortune become personal arbiters of our lives. But at 
last, as the change of meaning goes on, thoughts that 
once had a more real sense fade into mere poetic forms 
of speech. We have but to compare the effect of ancient 
and modem {personification on our own minds, to under- 
stand something of what has hapjpened in the interval. 
Milton may be consistent, classical, majestic, when he tells 
how Sin and Death sat within the gates of hell, and 
how they built their bridge of length prodigious across 
the deep abyss to earth. Yet such descriptions leave 

* Le Jeune, in ^ Rei. des J^s. dans la Nouvcllc France/ 1634, p. 13. 



but scant sense of meaning on modem minds, and we 
are apt to say, as we might of some counterfeit bronze 
from Naples, ' For a sham antique how cleverly it is 
done.' Entering into the mind of the old Norseman, 
we guess how much more of meaning than the cleverest 
modem imitation can carry, lay in his pictures of Hel, 
the death-goddess, stem and grim and livid, dwelling 
in her high and strong-barred house, and keeping in 
her nine worlds the souls of the departed ; Hunger 
is her dish, Famine is her knife, Care is her bed, and 
Misery her curtain. When such old material descriptions 
are transferred to modem times, in spite of all the 
accuracy of reproduction their spirit is quite changed. 
The stoiy of the monk who displayed among his relics 
the garments of St. Faith is to us only a jest ; and we 
call it quaint humour when Charles Lamb, falling old 
and infirm, once wote to a friend, ‘ My bed-fellows are 
Cough and Cramp ; we sleep three in a bed/ Perhaps 
we need not appreciate the drollery any the less for 
seeing in it at once a consequence and a record of a past 
intellectual life. 

The distinction of grammatical gender is a process 
intimately connected with the formation of myths. Gram- 
matical gender is of two kinds. What may be called sexual 
gender is familiar to all classically-educated Englishmen, 
though their mother tongue has mostly lost its traces. 
Thus in Latin not only are such words as Aowo.and femina 
classed naturally as masculine and feminine, but such words 
as pes and glad i its are made masculine, and biga and navis 
feminine, and the same distinction is actually drawn 
between such abstractions as honos and fides. That sexless 
objects and ideas should thus be classed as male and female, 
in spite of a new gender — ^the neuter or ‘ neither ' gender 
— ^having been defined, seems in part explained by consider- 
ing this latter to have been of later formation, and the 
original Indo-European genders to have been only masculine 
and feminine, as is actually the case in Hebrew. Though 



the practice of attributing sex to objects that have none is 
not easy to explain in detail, yet there seems nothing 
mysterious in its principles, to judge from one at least of 
its main ideas, which is still quite intelligible. Language 
makes an admirably appropriate distinction between strong 
and weak, stern and gentle, rough and delicate, when it 
contrasts them as male and female. It is possible to under- 
stand even such fancies as those which Pietro della Valle 
describes among the mediaeval Persians, distinguishing be- 
tween male and female, that is to say, practically between 
robust a,nd tender, even in such things as food and cloth, 
air and water, and prescribing their proper use accordingly.^ 
And no phrase could be more plain and forcible than that 
of the Dayaks of Borneo, who say of a heavy downpour of 
rain, * ujatn arai, 'sa ! ' — ‘ a he rain this ! ' * Difficult as 
it may be to decide how far objects and thoughts were 
classed in language as male and female because they were 
personified, and how far they were personified because they 
were classed as male and female, it is evident at any rate 
that these two processes fit together and promote each 

Moreover, in studying languages which lie beyond the 
range of common European scholarship, it is found that the 
theory of grammatical gender must be extended into a wider 
field. The Dravidian languages of South India make the 
interesting distinction between a ‘ high-caste or major 
gender,' which includes rational beings, i.e. deities and 
men, and a ' caste-less or minor gender,' which includes 
irrational objects, whether living animals or lifeless things.* 
The distinction between an animate and an inanimate 
gender appears with especial import in a family of North 
American Indian languages, the Algonquin. Here not only 

^ Pietro della Valle, ‘ Viaggi,’ letter xvi. 

* ‘ Joum. Ind. Archip.’ vol. ii. p. xxvii. 

* See remarks on the tendency of sex-denoting language to produce myth 
in Africa, in W. H. Bleek, ‘ Reynard the Fox in S. Afr.’ p. xx. ; * Origin of 
Lang.’ p. xxiii. 

* Caldwell, * Comp. Gr. of Dravidian Langs.’ p. 1 72. 



do all animals belong to the animate gender, but also the 
sun, moon, and stars, thunder and lightning, as being 
personified creatures. The animate gender, moreover, 
includes not only trees and fruits, but certain exceptional 
lifeless objects which appear to owe this distinction to their 
special sanctity or power ; such are the stone which serves 
as the altar of sacrifice to the manitus, the bow, the eagle's 
feather, the kettle, tobacco-pipe, drum, and wampum. 
Where the whole animal is animate, parts of its body 
considered separately may be inanimate — hand or foot, 
beak or wing. Yet even here, for special reasons, special 
objects are treated as of animate gender ; such are the 
eagle's talons, the bear's claws, the beaver’s castor, the 
man’s nails, and other objects for which there is claimed a 
peculiar or mystic power.^ If to anyone it seems surprising 
that savage thought should be steeped through and through 
in mythology, let him consider the meaning that is involved 
in a grammar of nature like this. Such a language is the 
very reflexion of a mythic world. 

There is yet another way in which language and mytho- 
logy can act and re-act on one another. Even we, with 
our blunted mythologic sense, cannot give an individual 
name to a lifeless object, such as a boat or a weapon, with- 
out in the very act imagining for it something of a personal 
nature. Among nations whose mythic conceptions have 
remained in full vigour, this action may be yet more vivid. 
Perhaps very low savages may not be apt to name their 
implements or their canoes as though they were live people, 
but races a few stages above them show the habit in perfec- 
tion. Among the Zulus we hear of names for clubs, 
Igumgehle or Glutton, U-nothlola-mazibuko or He-who- 
watches-the-fords ; among names for assagais are Imbubuzi 
or Groan-causer, U-silo-si-lambile or Hungry Leopard, and 
the weapon being also used as an implement, a certain 

^ Schoolcraft, ‘ Indian Tribes,’ part ii. p. 366. For other cases sec especially 
Pott in Ersch and Gruber’s ‘ Allg. Encyclop.’ art. * Geschlecht also D. 
Forbes, ‘ Persian Gr.* p. 26 j Latham, * Descr. Eth.’ vol. ii. p. 60. 



assagai bears the peaceful name of U-simbela-banta-bami, 
He-digs-up-for-my-children.^ A similar custom prevailed 
among the New Zealanders. The traditions of their 
ancestral migrations tell how Ngahue made from his jasper 
stone those two sharp axes whose names were Tutauru and 
Hauhau-te-rangi ; how with these axes were shaped the 
canoes Arawa and Tainui ; how the two stone anchdrs of 
Te Arawa were called Toka-parore or Wrystone, and 
Tu-te-rangi-haruru or Like-to-the-roaring-sky. These 
legends do not break off in a remote past, but carry on a 
chronicle which reaches into modem times. It is only 
lately, the Maoris say, that the famous axe Tutauru was 
lost, and as for the ear-ornament named Kaukau-matua, 
which was made from a chip of the same stone, they declare 
that it was not lost till 1846, when its owner, Te Heuheu, 
perished in a landslip.® Up from this savage level the same 
childlike habit of giving personal names to lifeless objects 
may be traced, as we read of Thor's hammer, Miolnir, 
whom the giants know as he comes flying through the air, 
or of Arthur's brand, Excalibur, caught by the arm clothed 
in white samite when Sir Bedivere flung him back into the 
lake, or of the Cid's mighty sword Tizona, the Firebrand, 
whom he vowed to bury in his own breast were she over- 
come through cowardice of his. 

The teachings of a childlike primaeval philosophy ascrib- 
ing personal life to nature at large, and the early tyranny 
of speech over the human mind, have thus been two great 
and, perhaps, greatest agents in mythologic development. 
Other causes, too, have been at work, which will be noticed 
in connexion with special legendary groups, and a full list, 
could it be drawn up, might include as contributories many 
other intellectual actions. It must be thoroughly under- 
stood, however, that such investigation of the processes of 
myth-foimation demands a lively sense of the state of men's 

^ Callaway, ‘ RcUg. of Amazulu,’ p. i66. 

* Grey, ‘ Polyn. Mvth.’ pp. 132, &c., 21 1 ; Shortland, ‘Traditions of 
N.Z.*p. 15. 



minds in the mythologic period. When the Russians in 
Siberia listened to the talk of the rude Kirgis, they stood 
amazed at the barbarians* ceaseless flow of poetic improvisa- 
tion, and exclaimed, ‘ Whatever these people see gives 
birth to fancies ! * Just so the civilized European may 
contrast his own stiff orderly prosaic thought with the wild 
shifting poetry and legend of the old myth-maker, and may 
say of him that everything he saw gave birth to fancy. 
W anting the power of transporting himself into this imagi- 
native atmosphere, the student occupied with the analysis 
of the mythic world may fail so pitiably in conceiving its 
depth and intensity of meaning, as to convert it into stupid 
fiction. Those can see more justly who have the poet's gift 
of throwing their minds back into the world's older life, like 
the actor who for a moment can forget himself and become 
what he pretends to be. Wordsworth, that ‘ modem 
ancient,' as Max Muller has so well called him, could write 
of Storm and Winter, or of the naked Sun climbing the 
sky, as though he were some Vedic poet at the head-spring 
of his race, ‘ seeing ’ with his mind's eye a mythic hymn 
to Agni or Varunay Fully to understand an old-world 
myth needs not evidence and argument alone, but deep 
poetic feeling. 

Yet such of us as share but very little in this rare gift, 
may make shift to let evidence in some measure stand in its 
stead. In the poetic stage of thought we may see that 
ideal conceptions once shaped in the mind must have 
assumed some such reality to grown-up men and women as 
they still do to children. I have never forgotten the vivid- 
ness with which, as a child, I fancied I might look through 
a great telescope, and see the constellations stand round the 
sky, red, green, and yellow, as I had just been shown them 
on the celestial globe. The intensity of mythic fancy may 
be brought even more nearly home *to our minds by com- 
paring it with the morbid subjectivity of illness. Among 
the lower races, and high above their level, morbid ecstasy 
brought on by meditation, fasting, narcotics, excitement, or 



disease, is a state common and held in honour among the 
very classes specially concerned with mythic idealism, and 
under its influence the barriers between sensation and 
imagination break utterly away. A North American Indian 
prophetess once related the story of her first vision : At her 
solitary fast at womanhood she fell into an ecstasy, and at 
the call of the spirits she went up to heaven by the path 
that leads to the opening of the sky ; there she heard a 
voice, and, standing still, saw the figure of a man standing 
near the path, whose head was surrounded by a brilliant 
halo, p.nd his breast was covered with squares ; he said, 
‘ Look at me, my name is Oshauwauegeeghick, the Bright 
Blue Sky ! * Recording her experience afterwards in the 
rude picture-writing of her race, she painted this glorious 
spirit with the hieroglyphic horns of power and the brilliant 
halo round his head.^ We know enough of the Indian 
pictographs to guess how a fancy with these familiar details 
of the picture-language came into the poor excited crea- 
ture's mind ; but how far is our cold analysis from her 
utter belief that in vision she had really seen this bright 
being, this Red Indfan Zens. Far frjom being an isolated 
case, this is scarcely more than a fair example of the rule 
that any idea shaped and made current by mythic fancy, 
may at once acquire all the definiteness of fact. Even if to 
the first shaper it be no more than lively imagination, yet 
when it comes to be embodied in words and to pass from 
house to house, those who hear it become capable of the 
most intense belief that it may be seen in material shape, 
that it has been seen, that they themselves have seen it. 
The South African who believes in a god with a crooked leg 
sees him with a crooked leg in dreams and visions.* In the 
time of Tacitus it was said, with a more poetic imagination, 
that in the far north of Scandinavia men might see the very 
forms of the gods ancf the rays streaming from their heads.® 

^ Schoolcraft, * Indian Tribes,* part i. p. 391 and pi. 55. 

* Livingstone, ‘ S. Afr.* p. 124. 

* Tac. Germania, 45. 



In the 6th century the famed Nile-god might still be seen, 
in gigantic human form, rising waist-high from the waters 
of his river. ^ Want of originality indeed seems one of the 
most remarkable features in the visions of mystics. The 
stiff Madonnas with their crowns and petticoats still 
transfer themselves from the pictures on cottage walls to 
appear in spiritual personality to peasant visionaries, as the 
saints who stood in vision before ecstatic monks of old were 
to be known by their conventional pictorial attributes. 
Wlien the devil with horns, hoofs, and tail had once become 
a fixed image in the popular mind, of course men saw him 
in this conventional shape. So real had St. Anthony's 
satyr-demon become to men's opinion, that there is a grave 
13th century account of the mummy of such a devil being 
exhibited at Alexandria ; and it is not fifteen years back 
from the present time that there was a story current at 
Teignmouth of a devil walking up the walls of the houses, 
and leaving his fiendish backward footprints in the snow. 
Nor is it vision alone that is concerned with the delusive 
realization of the ideal; there is, as it were, a conspiracy of 
all the senses to give h proof. To take a striking instance : 
there is an irritating herpetic disease which gradually 
encircles the body as with a girdle, whence its English name 
of the shingles (Latin, cingulum). By an imagination not 
difficult to understand, this disease is attributed to a sort of 
coiling snake ; and I remember a case in Cornwall where a 
girl's family waited in great fear to see if the creature 
would stretch all round her, the belief being that if the 
snake's head and tail met, the patient would die. But a yet 
fuller meaning of this fantastic notion is brought out in an 
account by Dr. Bastian of a physician who suffered in a 
painful disease, as though a snake were twined round him, 
and in whose mind this idea reached such reality that in 
moments of excessive pain he could see the snake and touch 
its rough scales with^his hand. 

The relation of morbid imagination to myth is peculiarly 

^ Maury, ‘ Magie, &c, ’ p. «75- 

3o8 mythology. 

well instanced in the history of a widespread belief, extend- 
ing through savage, barbaric, classic, oriental, and mediaeval 
life, and surviving to this day in European superstition. 
This belief, which may be conveniently called the Doctrine 
of Werewolves, is that certadn men, by natural gift or magic 
art, can turn for a time into ravening wild beasts. The 
origin of this idea is by no means sufficiently explained. 
What we are especially concerned with is the fact of its pre- 
valence in the world. It may be noticed that such a notion 
’^ is quite consistent with the animistic theory that a man's 
soul may go out of his body and enter that of a beast or 
bird, and also with the opinion that men maybe transformed 
into animals ; both these ideas having an important place in 
the belief of mankind, from savagery onward. The doctrine 
of werewolves is substantially that of a temporary metem- 
psychosis or metamorphosis. Now it really occurs that, in 
various forms of mental disease, patients prowl shyly, long 
to bite and destroy mankind, and even fancy themselves 
transformed into wild beasts. Belief in the possibility of 
such transformation may have been the very suggesting 
cause which led the patient to imagine it taking place in his 
own person. But at any rate such insane delusions do occur, 
and physicians apply to them the mythologic term of lycan- 
thropy. The belief in men being werewolves, man-tigers, 
and the like, may thus have the strong support of the very 
witnesses who believe themselves to be such creatures. 
Moreover, professional sorcerers have taken up the idea, as 
they do any morbid delusion, and pretend to turn them- 
selVes and others into beasts by magic art. Through the 
mass of ethnographic details relating to this subject, there 
is manifest a remarkable uniformity of principle. 

Among the non- Aryan indigenes of India, the tribes of the 
Garo Hills describe as ‘ transformation into a tiger ’ a kind 
of temporary madness, apparently of the nature of delirium 
tremens, in which the patient walks like a tiger, shunning 
society.^ The Khonds of Orissa say that some among them 

^ Eliot in * As. Res.* vol. iii. p. 32. 



have the art of ‘ mleepa/ and by the aid of a god become 
' mleepa ' tigers for the purpose of killing enemies, one of 
the man’s four souls going out to animate the bestial form. 
Natural tigers, say the Khonds, kill game to benefit men, 
who find it half devoured and share it, whereas man-killing 
tigers are either incarnations of the wrathful Earth-goddess, 
or they are transformed men.^ Thus the notion of man- 
tigers serves, as similar notions do elsewhere, to account for 
the fact that certain individual wild beasts show a peculiar 
hostility to man. Among the Ho of Singbhoom it is related, 
as an example of similarTIelielTftat a man named Mora saw 
his wife killed by a tiger, and followed the beast till it led him 
to the house of a man named Poosa. Telling Poosa’s rela- 
tives of what had occurred, they replied that they were 
aware that he had the power of becoming a tiger, and 
accordingly they brought him out bound, and Mora deli- 
berately killed him. Inquisition being made by the authori- 
ties, the family deposed, in explanation of their belief, that 
Poosa had one night devoured an entire goat, roaring like a 
tiger whilst eating it, and that on another occasion he told 
his friends he had a longing to eat a particular bullock, and 
that very night that very bullock was killed and devoured 
by a tiger.* South-eastern Asia is not less familiar with the 
idea of sorcerers turning into man-tigers and wandering 
after prey ; thus the Jakuns of the Malay Peninsula believe 
that when a man becomes a tiger to revenge himself on his 
enemies, the transformation happens just before he springs, 
and has been seen to take place.* 

How vividly the imagination of an excited tribe, once 
inoculated with a belief like this, can realize it into an event, 
is graphically told by Dobrizhoffer among the Abipones of 
South America. When a sorcerer, to get the better of an 
enemy, threatens to change himself into a tiger and tear his 

^ Macpherson, * India,* pp. 92, 99, 108. 

* Dalton, * Kols of Chota-Nagpore * in * Tr. Eth. Soc.* vol. vi. p. 32. 

*J. Cameron, ‘Malayan India,’ p. 393; Bastian, ‘ Oestl. Aaien,* vol. i. 
p. 1 19 ; vol. iii. pp. 261, 273 j * As. Res.’ vol. vi. p. 173. 



tribesmen to pieces, no sooner does he begin to roar, than 
all the neighbours fly to a distance ; but still they hear the 
feigned sounds. ' Alas ! ' they cry, ' his whole body is 
beginning to be covered with tiger-sppts ! ' ‘ Look, his 

nails are growing ! * the fear-struck women exclaim, although 
they cannot see the rogue, who is concealed within his tent, 
but distracted fear presents things to their eyes which have 
no real existence. 'You daily kill tigers in the plain with- 
out dread,' said the missionary ; ‘ why then should you 
weakly fear a false imaginary tiger in the town ? ' ‘You 
fathers don't understand these matters,' they reply with a 
smile. ‘ We never fear, but kill tigers in the plain, because 
we can see them. Artificial tigers we do fear, because they 
can neither be seen nor killed by us.'^ The sorcerers who 
induced assemblies of credulous savages to believe in this 
monstrous imposture, were also the professional spiritualistic 
mediums of the tribes, whose business it was to hold inter- 
course with the spirits of the dead, causing them to appear 
visibly, or carrying on audible dialogues with them behind a 
curtain. Africa is especially rich in myths of man-lions, 
man-leopards, man-hyaenas. In the Kanuri language of 
Bornu, there is grammatically formed from the word 
' bultu,' a hyaena, the verb ‘ bultungin,' meaning ‘ I trans- 
form myself into a hyaena ; ' and the natives maintain that 
there is a town called Kabutiloa, where every man possesses 
this faculty.* The tribe of Budas in Abyssinia, iron- workers 
and potters, are believed to combine with these civilized 
avocations the gift of the evil eye and the power of turning 
into hyaenas, wherefore they are excluded from society and 
the Christian sacrament. In the ‘ Life of Nathaniel Pearce,' 
the testimony of one Mr. Coffin is printed. A young Buda, 
his servant, came for leave of absence, which was granted ; 
but scarcely was Mr. Coffin's head turned to his other 

^ Dobrizhoffer, * Abiponcs,* vol. ii. p. 77. Sec J. G. Miillcr, ‘ Amcr. 
Urrclig.* p. 63; Martius, ‘Ethn. Amcr.* vol. i. p. 652; Oviedo, ‘Nicaragua,* 
p. 229 ; Piedrahita, ‘ Nuevo Reyno dc Granada,* part i. lib. c. 3. 

^ Kolle, ‘ Afr. Lit. and Kanuri Vocab.* p. 275. 



servants, when some of them called out, pointing in the 
direction the Buda had taken, ‘ Look, look, he is turning 
himself into a hyaena/ Mr. Coffin instantly looked round, 
the young man had vanished, and a large hyaena was 
running off at about a hundred paces* distance, in full light 
on the open plain, without tree or bush to intercept the 
view. The Buda came back next morning, and as usual 
rather affected to countenance than deny the prodigy. Coffin 
says, moreover, that the Budas wear a peculiar gold earr 
ring, and this he has frequently seen in the ears of hyaenas 
shot in traps, or speared by himself and others ; the Budas 
are dreaded for their magical arts, and the editor of the book 
suggests that they put ear-rings in hyaenas’ ears to encourage 
a profitable superstition.^ Mr. Mansfield Parkyns’ more 
recent account shows how thoroughly this belief is part 
and parcel of Abyssinian spiritualism. Hysterics, lethargy, 
morbid insensibility to pain, and the * demoniacal posses- 
sion,’ in which the patient speaks in the name and language 
of an intruding spirit, are all ascribed to the spiritual agency 
of the Budas. Among the cases described by Mr. Parkyns 
was that of a servant-woman of his, whose illness was set 
down to the influence of one of these blacksmith-hyaenas, 
who wanted to get her out into the forest and devour her. 
One night, a hyaena having been heard howling and laughing 
near the village, the woman was bound hand and foot and 
closely guarded in the hut, when suddenly, the hyaena calling 
close by, her master, to his astonishment, saw her rise 
' without her bonds ’ like a Davenport Brother, and try to 
escape.2 In Ashango-land, M. Du Chaillu tells the follow- 
ing suggestive story. He was informed that a leopard had 
killed two men, and many palavers were held to settle the 
affair ; but this was no ordinary leopard, but a transformed 
man. Two of Akondogo’s men had disappeared, and only 

i‘Life and Adventures of Nathaniel Pearce’ (1810-9), ed. by J. J. Halls, 
London, 1831, vol. i. p. 286; also ‘ Tr. Eth. Soc.’ vol. vi. p. 288; Waitz, 
vol. ii. p. 504. 

* Parkyns, ‘ Life in Abyssinia * (1853), vol. ii. p. 146. 



their blood was found, so a great doctor was sent for, who 
said it was Akondogo's own nephew and heir Akosho. The 
lad was sent for, and when asked by the chief, answered 
that it was truly he who had committed the murders, that he 
could not help it, for he had turned into a leopard, and his 
heart longed for blood, and after each deed he had turned 
into a man again. Akondogo loved the boy so much that he 
would not believe his confession, till Akosho took him to a 
place in the forest, where lay the mangled bodies of the two 
men, whom he had really murdered under the influence of 
this morbid imagination. He was slowly burnt to death, all 
the people standing by.^ 

Brief mention is enough for the comparatively well- 
known European representatives of these beliefs. What 
with the mere continuance of old tradition, what with the 
tricks of magicians, and what with cases of patients under 
delusion believing themselves to have suffered transforma- 
tion, of which a number are on record, the European series 
of details from ancient to modern ages is very complete. 
Virgil in the Bucolics shows the popular opinion of his 
time that the arts of the werewolf, the necromancer or 
‘ medium,' and the witch, were different branches of one 
craft, where he tells of Moeris as turning into a wolf by the 
use of poisonous herbs, as calling up souls from the tombs, 
and as bewitching away crops : — 

‘ Has herbas, atque haec Ponto mihi lecta venena 
Ipse dedit Moeris ; nascuntur plurima Ponto. 

His ego saepe lupum fieri, et se condere sylvis 
Moerin, saepe- animas imis excire sepulcris, 

Atque satas ali6 vidi traducere messes.* * 

Of the classic accounts, one of the most remarkable is 
Petronius Arbiter's story of the transformation of a ' versi- 
pellis ' or ‘ turnskin ; ' this contains the episode of the 

^ Du Chaillu, * Ashango-land,’ p. 52. For other African details, see Waitz, 
vol. ii. p. 343 ; J. L. Wilson, ‘ W. Afr.’ pp. 222, 365, 398 -, Burton, ‘ E. Afr.* 
p. 57 ; Livingstone, ‘ S. Afr.* pp. 615, 642 j Magyar, * S. Afr.’ p. 136. 

* Virg. Bucol. ed. viii. 95. 



wolf being wounded and the man who wore its shape found 
with a similar wound, an idea not sufficiently proved to 
belong originally to the lower races, but which becomes- a 
familiar feature in European stories of werewolves and 
witches. In Augustine's time magicians were persuading 
their dupes that by means of herbs they could turn them to 
wolves, and the use of salve for this purpose is mentioned 
at a comparatively modem date. Old Scandinavian sagas 
have their werewolf warriors, and shape-changers (ham- 
ramr) raging in fits of furious madness. The Danes still 
know a man who is a werewolf by his eyebrows meeting, 
and thus resembling a butterfly, the familiar type of the 
soul, ready to fly off and enter some other body. In the 
last year of the Swedish war with Russia, the people of 
Kalmar said the wolves which overran the land were trans- 
formed Swedish prisoners. From Herodotus' legend of the 
Neuri who turned every year for a few days to wolves, we 
follow the idea on Slavonic ground to where Livonian 
sorcerers bathe yearly in a river and turn for twelve days to 
wolves ; and widespread Slavonic superstition still declares 
that the wolves that sometimes in bitter winters dare to 


attack men, are themselves ' wilkolak/ men bewitched into 
wolf's shape. The modem Greeks instead of the classic 
AvKav^pwTTos adopt the Slavonic term l3pvKo\aKa^ (Bulga- 
rian * vrkolak ') ; it is a man who falls into a cataleptic 
state, while his soul enters a wolf and goes ravening for 
blood. Modern Germany, especially in the north, still 
keeps up the stories of wolf-girdles, and in December you 
must not * talk of the wolf ' by name, lest the werewolves 
tear you. Our English word ' werewolf,' that is ' man- 
wolf ' (the ‘ verevulf ' of Cnut's Laws), still reminds us of 
the old belief in our own country, and if it has had for 
centuries but little place in English folklore, this has been 
not so much for lack of superstition, as of wolves. To 
instance the survival of the idea, transferred to another 
animal, in the more modern witch-persecution, the following 
Scotch story may serve. Certain witches at Thurso for a 



long time tormented an honest fellow under the usual form 
of cats, till one night he put them to flight with his broad- 
sword, and cut off the leg of one less nimble than the rest ; 
taking it up, to his amazement he found it -to be a woman's 
leg, and next morning he discovered the old hag its owner 
with but one leg left. In France the creature has what is 
historically the same name as our ' werewolf ; ' viz. in 
early forms ‘ gerulphus,' ‘ garoul,' and now pleonastically 
‘ louprgarou.' The parliament of Franche-Comt6 made a 
law in 1573 to expel the werewolves ; in 1598 the werewolf 
of Angers gave evidence of his hands and feet turning to 
wolfs claws ; in 1603, in the case of Jean Grenier, the 
judge declared lycanthropy to be an insane delusion, not a 
crime. In 1658, a French satirical description of a magi- 
cian could still give the following perfect account of the 
witch-werewolf : ' I teach the witches to take the form of 
wolves and eat children, and when anyone has cut off one of 
their legs (which proves to be a man's arm) I forsake them 
when they are discovered, and leave them in the power of 
justice.' Even in our own day the idea has by no means 
died out of the French peasant's mind. Not ten years ago 
in France, Mr. Baring-Gould found it impossible to get a 
guide after dark across a wild place haunted by a loup- 
garou, an incident which led him afterwards to write his 
‘ Book of Werewolves,' a monograph of this remarkable 
combination of myth and madness.^ 

If we judged the myths of early ages by the unaided 
power of our modem fancy, we might be left unable to 
account for their immense effect on the life and belief of 
mankind. But by the study of such evidence as this, it 

^ For collections of European evidence, see W. Herts, ‘ Der Werwolf 
Baringf-Gould, *Book of Werewolves;’ Grimm, ‘D. M.’ p. 1047; Dasent, 
* Norse Tales,* Introd. p. cxix. ; Bastian, * Mensch.’ vol. ii. pp. 32, 566 ; 
Brand, * Pop. Ant.* vol. i. p. 312, vol. iii. p. 32 ; Lecky, * Hist, of Rationalism,* 
vol. i. p. 82. Particular details in Petron. Arbiter, Satir. Ixii. ; Virgil. Eclog. 
viii. 97; Plin. viii. 34; Herodot. iv. 105; Mela ii. i; Augustin. De Civ. 
Dei, xviii. 17 ; Hanusch, * Slav. Myth.’ pp. 286, 320 ; Wuttke, ‘ Deutsche 
V’olksaberglaubc,’ p. 118. 



becomes possible to realize a usual state of the imagination 
among ancient and savage peoples, intermediate between 
the conditions of a healthy prosaic modem citizen and of a 
raving fanatic or a patient in a fever-ward. A poet of our 
own day has still much in common with the minds of 
uncultured tribes in the mythologic stage of thought. The 
rude man's imaginations may be narrow, crude, and 
repulsive, while the poet's more conscious fictions may be 
highly wrought into shapes of fresh artistic beauty, but 
both share in that sense of the reality of ideas, which fortu- 
nately or unfortunately modern education has proved so 
powerful to destroy. The change of meaning of a single 
word will tell the history of this transition, ranging from 
primaeval to modem thought. From first to last, the 
processes of phantasy have been at work ; but where the 
savage could see phantasms, ih& civilized man has come to 
amuse himself with fancies. 


MYTHOLOGY {continued). 

Nature-myths, their origin, canon of interpretation, preservation of original 
sense and significant names — Nature-myths of upper savage races com- 
pared with related forms among barbaric and civilized nations — Heaven 
and Earth as Universal Parents — Sun and Moon : Eclipse and Sunset, as 
Hero or Maiden swallowed by Monster ; Rising of Sun from Sea and 
Descent to Under-World ; Jaws of Night and Death, Symplegades ; Eye 
of Heaven, Eye of Odin and the Gratae — Sun and Moon as mythic civi- 
lizers — Moon, her inconstancy, periodical death and revival — Stars, their 
generation — Constellations, their place in Mythology and Astronomy — 
Wind and Tempest — Thunder — Earthquake. 

From laying down general principles of myth-development, 
we may now proceed to survey the class of Nature-myths, 
such especially as seem* to have thpir earliest source and 
truest meaning among the lower races of mankind. 

Science, investigating nature, discusses its facts and 
announces its laws in technical language which is clear and 
accurate to trained students, but which falls only as a 
mystic jargon on the ears of barbarians, or peasants, or 
children. It is to the comprehension of just these simple 
unschooled minds that the language of poetic myth is 
spoken, so far at least' as it is true poetry, and not its 
quaint affected imitation. The poet contemplates the same 
natural world as the man of science, but in his so different 
craft strives to render difficult thought easy by making it 
visible and tangible, above all by referring the being and 
movement of the world to such personal life as his hearers 
feel within themselves, and thus working out in far- 
stretched fancy the maxim that ' Man is the measure of all 
things/ Let but the key be recovered to this mythic 




dialect, and its complex and shifting terms will translate 
themselves into reality, and show how far legend, in its 
sympathetic fictions of war, love, crime, adventure, fate, is 
only telling the- perennial story of the world's daily life. 
The myths shaped out of those endless analogies between 
man and nature which are the soul of all poetry, into those 
half-human stories still so full to us of unfading life and 
beauty, are the masterpieces of an art belonging rather to 
the past than to the present. The growth of myth has 
been checked by science, it is dying of weights and 
measures, of proportions and specimens — it is not only 
dying, but half dead, and students are anatomising it. In 
this world one must do what one can, and if the moderns 
cannot feel myth as their forefathers did, at least they can 
analyse it. There is a kind of intellectual frontier with- 
in which he must be who will sympathise with myth, 
while he must be without who will investigate it, and it is 
our fortune that we live near this frontier-line, and can go 
in and out. European scholars can still in a measure 
understand the belief of Greeks or Aztecs or Maoris in 
their native myths, and at the same time can compare and 
interpret them without the scruples of men to whom such 
tales are history, and even sacred history. Moreover, were 
the whole human race at a uniform level of culture with 
ourselves, it would be hard to bring our minds to conceive 
of tribes in the mental state to which the early growth of 
nature-myth belongs, even as it is now hard to picture to 
ourselves a condition of mankind lower than any that has 
been actually found. But the various grades of existing 
civilization preserve the landmarks of a long course of 
history, and there survive by millions savages and bar- 
barians whose minds still produce, in rude archaic forms, 
man's early mythic representations of nature. 

Those who read for the first time the dissertations of the 
modem school of mythologists, and sometimes even those 
who have been familiar with them for years, are prone to 
ask, with half-incredulous appreciation of the beauty and 

3i8 mythology. 

simplicity of their interpretations, can they be really true ? 
Can so great a part of the legendary lore of classic, bar- 
barian, and mediaeval Europe be taken up with the ever- 
lasting depiction of Sun and Sky, Dawn and Gloaming, 
Day and Night, Summer and Winter, Cloud and Tempest ; 
can so many of the personages of tradition, for all their 
heroic human aspect, have their real origin in anthropo- 
morphic myths of nature ? Without any attempt to 
discuss these opinions at large, it will be seen that in- 
spection of nature-mythology from the present point of 
view tells in their favour, at least as to principle. The 
general theory that such direct conceptions of nature as 
are so naively and even baldly uttered in the Veda, are 
among the primary sources of myth, is enforced by 
evidence gained elsewhere in the world. Especially the 
traditions of savage races display mythic conceptions of the 
outer world, primitive like those of the ancient Indian 
hymns, agreeing with them in their general character, and 
often remarkably corresponding in their very episodes. At 
the same time it must be clearly understood that the truth 
of such a general principle is no warrant for all the particular 
interpretations which mythologists claim to base upon it, 
for of these in fact many are wildly speculative, and many 
hopelessly unsouiid. Nature-myth demands indeed a recog- 
nition of its vast importance in the legendary lore of 
mankhid, but only so far as its claim is backed by strong 
and legitimate evidence. 

The close and deep analogies between the life of nature 
and the life of man have been for ages dwelt upon by poets 
and philosophers, who in simile or in argument have told of 
light and d^kness, of calm and tempest, of birth, growth, 
change, decay, dissolution, renewal. But no one-sided in- 
terpretation can be permitted to absorb into a single theory 
such endless many-sided correspondences as these. Rash 
inferences which on the strength of mere resemblance derive 
episodes of myth from episodes of nature must be regarded 
with utter mistrust, for the student who has no more strin- 



gent criterion than this for his myths of sun and sky and 
dawn, will find them wherever it pleases him to seek them. 
It may be judged by simple trial what such a method may 
lead to ; no legend, no allegory, no nursery rhyme, is safe 
from the hermeneutics of a thorough-going mythologic 
theorist. Should he, for instance, demand as his property 
the nursery * Song of Sixpence,' his claim would be easily 
established : obviously the four-and~twenty blackbirds are 
the four-and-twenty hours, and the pie that holds them is 
the underlying earth covered with the overarching sky ; how 
true a touch of nature it is that when the pie is opened, 
that is, when day breaks, the birds begin to sing ; the 
King is the Sun, and his counting out his money is pouring 
out the sunshine, the golden shower bf Danae ; the Queen 
is the Moon, and her transparent honey the moonlight ; the 
Maid is the * rosy-fingered ' Dawn who rises before the Sun 
her master, and hangs out the clouds, his clothes, across 
the sky ; the particular blackbird who so tragically ends the 
tale by snipping oft her nose, is the hour of sunrise. The 
time-honoured rhyme really wants but one thing to prove it 
a Sun-myth, that one thing being a proof by some argument 
more valid than analogy. Or if historical characters be 
selected with any discretion, it is easy to point out the solar 
episodes embodied in their lives. See Cort^ landing in 
Mexico, and seeming to the Aztecs their very Sun-priest 
Quetzalcoatl, come back from the East to renew his reign 
of light and glory ; mark him deserting the wife of his 
youth, even as the Sun leaves the Dawn, and again in later 
life abandoning Marina for a new bride ; watch his sun-like 
career of brilliant conquest, checkered with intervals of 
storm, and declining to a death clouded with sorrow and 
disgrace. The life of Juhus Caesar would fit as plausibly 
into a scheme of solar myth; his splendid course as in each 
new land he came, and saw, and conquered; his desertion 
of Cleopatra ; his ordinance of the solar year for men ; his 
death at the hand of Brutus, like Sifrit's death at the hand 
of Hagen in the Nibelungen Lied; his falling pierced with 


many bleeding wounds, and shrouding himself in his cloak 
to die in darkness. Of Caesar, better than of Cassius his 
slayer, it might have been said in the language of sun- 
m5d;h : 

*. . . O setting sun, 

As in thy red rays thou dost sink to-night, 

So in his red blood Cassius* day is set ; 

The sun of Rome is set ! * 

Thus, in interpreting heroic legend as based on nature- 
myth, circumstantial analogy must be very cautiously ap- 
pealed to, and at any rate there is need of evidence more 
cogent than vague likenesses between human and cosmic 
life. Now such evidence is forthcoming at its strongest in 
a crowd of myths, whose open meaning it would be wanton 
incredulity to doubt, so little do they disguise, in name or 
sense, the familiar aspects of nature which they figure as 
scenes of personal life. Even where the tellers of legend 
may have altered or forgotten its earlier mythic meaning, 
there are often sufficient grounds for an attempt to restore 
it. In spite of change and corruption, myths are slow to 
lose all consciousness of their first origin ; as for instance, 
classical literature retained enough c\i meaning in the great 
Greek sun-myth, to compel even Lempriere of the Classical 
Dictionary to admit that Apollo or Phoebus * is often con- 
founded with the sun.' For another instance, the Greeks 
had still present to their thoughts the meaning of Argos 
Panoptes, lo's hundred-eyed, all-seeing guard who was slain 
by Hermes and changed into the Peacock, for Macrobius 
writes as recognizing irj him the star-eyed heaven itself ; ^ 
even as Indra, the Sky, is in Sanskrit the ‘ thousand- 
eyed' (sahasrdksha, sahasranayana). In modem times the 
thought is found surviving or reviving in a strange region of 
language : whoever it was that brought argo as a word for 
' heaven ' into the Lingua Furbesca or Robbers’ Jargon of 
Italy,* must have been thinking of the starry sky watching 

*Macrob. ‘Saturn.’ i. 19, 12. Sec Eurip. Phoen. 1116, ice. and Schol. ; 
Wclcker, vol. i. p. 336 •, Max Muller, ‘ Lectures,* vol. ii. p. 380. 

* Francisquc-Michel, ‘ Argot,* p 425. 



him like Argus with his hundred eyes. The et3miology 
of names, moreover, is at once the guide and safeguard 
of the mythologist. The obvious meaning of wor(fc did 
much to preserve vestiges of plain sense in classic legend, 
in spite of all the efforts of the commentators. There 
was no disputing the obvious facts that Helios was the 
Sun, and Selene the Moon ; and as for Jove, all the non- 
sense of pseudo-history could not quite do away the idea 
that he was really Heaven, for language continued to de- 
clare this in such expressions as * sub Jove frigido.* The 
explanation of the rape of Persephone, as a nature-myth of 
the seasons and the fruits of the earth, does not’depend alone 
on analogy of incident, but has the very names to prove 
its reality, Zeus, Helios, Demeter — Heaven, and Sun, and 
Mother Earth. Lastly, in stories of mythic beings who are 
the presiding genii of star or mountain, tree or river, or 
heroes and heroines actually metamorphosed into such 
objects, personification of nature is still plainly evident ; 
the poet may still as of old see Atlas bear the heavens on his 
mighty shoulders, and Alpheus in impetuous course pursue 
the maiden Arethusa. , 

In a study of the nature-myths of the world, it is hardly 
practicable to start from the conceptions of the very lowest 
human tribes, and to work upwards from thence to fictions 
of higher growth ; partly because our information is but 
meagre as to the beliefs of these shy and seldom quite intel- 
ligible folk, and partly because the legends they possess 
have not reached that artistic and systematic shape which 
they attain to among races next higher in the scale. It 
therefore answers better to take as a foundation the 
mythology of the North American Indians, the South Sea 
Islanders, and other low-cultured tribes who best represent 
in modem times the early mythologic period of human 
history. The survey may he fitly commenced by a 
singularly perfect and purposeful cosmic myth from New 

It seems long ago and often to have come into men's 



minds, that the overarching Heaven and the all-producing 
Earth are, as it were, a Father and a Mother of the world, 
whose offspring are the living creatures, men, and beasts, 
and plants. Nowhere, in the telling of this oft-told tale, is 
present nature veiled in more transparent personification, 
nowhere is the world's familiar daily life repeated with more 
childlike simplicity as a story of long past ages, than in the 
legend of ' The Children of Heaven and Earth ' written down 
by Sir George Grey among the Maoris about the year 
1850. From Rangi, the Heaven, and Papa, the Earth, it is 
said, sprang all men and things, but sky and earth clave 
together, and darkness rested upon them and the beings 
they had begotten, till at last their children took counsel 
whether they should rend apart their parents, or slay them. 
Then Tane-mahuta, father of forests, said to his five great 
brethren, * It is better to rend them apart, and to let the 
heaven stand far above us, and the earth lie under our feet. 
Let the sky become as a stranger to us, but the earth remain 
clore to us as our nursing mother.' So Kongo-ma-tane, 
god and father of the cultivated food of man, arose and 
strove to separate the heaven and the earth ; he struggled, 
but in vain, and vain too were the efforts of Tangaroa, 
father of fish and reptiles, and of Haumia-tikitiki, father of 
wild-growing food, and of Tu-matauenga, god and father 
of fierce men. Then slow uprises Tane-mahuta, god and 
father of forests, and wrestles with his parents, striving to 
part them with his hands and arms. * Lo, he pauses ; his 
head is now firmly planted on his mother the earth, his feet 
he raises up and rests -against his father the skies, he strains 
his back and limbs with mighty effort. Now are rent apart 
Rangi and Papa, and with cries and groans of woe they 
shriek aloud. . . . But Tane-mahuta pauses not; far, far 
beneath him he presses down the earth ; far, far above him 
he thrusts up the sky.' But Tawhiri-ma-tea, father of 
winds and storms, had never consented that his mother 
should be torn from her lord, and now there arose in his 
breast a fierce desire to war against his brethren. So the 


Storm-god rose and followed his father to the realms above, 
hurrying to the sheltered hollows of the boundless skies, to 
hide and cling and nestle there. Then came forth his pro- 
geny, the mighty .winds, the fierce squalls, the clouds, dense, 
dark, fiery, wildly drifting, wildly bursting ; and in their 
midst their father rushed upon his foe. Tane-mahuta and his 
giant forests stood unconscious and unsuspecting when the 
raging hurricane burst on them, snapping the mighty trees 
across, leaving trunks and branches rent and tom upon the 
ground for the insect and the grub to prey on. Then the 
father of storms swooped down to lash the waters into 
billows whose summits rose like cliffs, till Tangaroa, god of 
ocean and father of all that dwell therein, fled affrighted 
through his seas. His children, Ika-tere, the father of fish, 
and Tu-te-wehiwehi, the father of reptiles, sought where 
they might escape for safety ; the father of fish cried, ‘ Ho, 
ho, let us all escape to the sea,* but the father of reptiles 
shouted in answer, ‘ Nay, nay, let us rather fly inland,* and 
so these creatures separated, for while the fish fled into the 
sea, the reptiles sought safety in the forests and scrubs. 
But the sea-god Tangaroa, furious that his children the 
reptiles should have deserted him, has ever since waged war 
on his brother Tane who gave them shelter in his woods. 
Tane attacks him in return, supplying the offspring of his 
brother Tu-matauenga, father of fierce men, with canoes 
and spears and fish-hooks made from his trees, and with 
nets woven from his fibrous plants, that they may destroy 
withal the fish, the Sea-god*s children ; and the Sea-god 
turns in wrath upon the Forest-god, overwhelms his canoes 
with the surges of the sea, sweeps with floods his trees and 
houses into the boundless ocean. Next the god of storms 
pushed on to attack his brothers the gods and progenitors 
of the tilled food and the wild, but Papa, the Earth, caught 
them up and hid them, and so safely were these her children 
concealed by their mother, that the Storm-god sought for 
them in vain. So he fell upon the last of his brothers, the 
father of fierce men, but him he could not even shake. 



though he put forth all his strength. What cared Tu- 
matauenga for his brother’s wrath ? He it was who had 
planned the destruction of their parents, and had shown 
himself brave and fierce in war ; his brethren had 5nelded 
before the tremendous onset of the Storm-god and his pro- 
geny ; the Forest-god and his offspring had been broken 
and tom in pieces ; the Sea-god and his children had fled to 
the depths of the ocean or the recesses of the shore ; 
the go^ of food had been safe in hiding ; but man still 
stood erect and imshaken upon the bosom of his mother 
Earth, and at last the hearts of the Heaven and the Storm 
became tranquil, and their passion was assuaged. 

But nowTu-matauenga, father of fierce men, took thought 
how he might be avenged upon his brethren who had left 
him unaided to stand against the god of storms. He twisted 
nooses of the leaves of the whanake tree, and the birds and 
beasts, children of Tane the Forest-god, fell before him ; he 
netted nets from the flax-plant, and dragged ashore the fish, 
the children of Tangaroa the Sea-god ; he found in their 
hiding-place underground the children of Rongo-ma-tane, 
the sweet potato and all cultivated food, and the children of 
Haumia-tikitiki, the fern-root and all wild-growing food, he 
dug them up and let them wither in the sun. Yet, though 
he overcame his four brothers, and they became his food, 
over the fifth he could not prevail, and Tawhiri-ma-tea, the 
Storm-god, still ever attacks him in tempest and hurricane, 
striving to destroy him both by sea and land. It was the 
bursting forth of the Storm-god’s wrath against his brethren 
that caused the dry land’ to disappear beneath the waters : 
the beings of ancient days who thus submerged the land 
were Terrible-rain, Long-continued-rain, Fierce-hailstorms ; 
and their progeny were Mist, and Heavy-dew, and Light- 
dew, and thus but little of the dry land was left standing 
above the sea. Then clear light increased in the world, and 
the beings who had been hidden between Rangi and Papa 
before they were parted, now multiplied upon the earth. 

‘ Up to this time the vast Heaven has still ever remained 


separated from his spouse the Earth. Yet their mutual 
love still continues ; the soft warm sighs of her loving 
bosom still ever rise up to him, ascending from the woody 
mountains and vallefys, and men call these mists ; and the 
vast Heaven, as he mourns through the long nights his 
separation from his beloved, drops frequent tears upon her 
bosom, and men seeing these term them dew-drops. 

The rending asunder of heaven and earth is a far-spread 
Pol5mesian legend, well known in the island groups that 
lie away to the north-east.® Its elaboration, however, into 
the myth here sketched out was probably native New 
Zealand work. Nor need it be supposed that the par- 
ticular form in which the English governor took it down 
among the Maori priests and tale-tellers, is of ancient date. 
The story carries in itself evidence of an antiquity of 
character which does not necessarily belong to mere lapse 
of centuries. Just as the adzes of polished jade and the 
cloaks of tied flax-fibre, which these New Zealanders were 
using but yesterday, are older in their place in history than 
the bronze battle-axes and linen mummy cloths of ancient 
Egypt, so the Maori pqet's shaping of nature into nature- 
myth belongs to a stage of intellectual history which was 
passing away in Greece five-and-twenty centuries ago. 
The myth-maker’s fancy of Heaven and Earth as father 
and mother of all things naturally suggested the legend 
that they in old days abode together, but have since been 
torn asunder. In China the same idea of the universal 
parentage is accompanied by a similar legend of the separa- 
tion. Whether or not there is historical connexion here 
between the mythology of Polynesia and China, I will not 
guess, but certainly the ancient Chinese legend of the 

^Sir G. Grey, ‘Polynesian Mythology,’ p. i. &c., translated from the 
original Maori text published by him under the title of ‘ Ko nga Mahinga a nga 
Tupuna Maori, See.* London, 1854. Compare with Shortland, * Trads; of N. 

P- 55 , See . ; R. Taylor, ‘ New Zealand,* p. 1 14, See. 

* Schirren, * Wandersagen der Neuseelknder, Sec.* p. 42 ; Ellis, ‘ Polyn. 
Res.* vol. i, p. n6 ; Tyerman and Bcnnet, p. 526; Turner, ‘Polynesia^’ 
P- 245 - 

I.— Y 



separation of heaven and earth in the primaeval days of 
Puang-Ku seems to have taken the very shape of the 
Polynesian myth : * Some say a person called Puang*Ku 
opened or separated the heavens and the earth, they pre- 
viously being pressed down close together.*^ As to the 
mythic details in the whole story of ' The Children of 
Heaven and Earth,* there is scarcely a thought that is no' 
still transparent, scarcely even a word that has lost it^ 
meaning to us. The broken and stiffened traditions which 
our fathers fancied relics of ancient history, are, as has been 
truly said, records of a past which was never present ; but 
the simple nature-myth, as we find it in its actual growth, 
or reconstruct it from its legendarv remnants, may be 
rather called the record of a presenv which is never past. 
The battle of the storm against the forest and the ocean 
is still waged before our eyes ; we still look upon the victory 
of man over the creatures of the land and sea ; the food- 
plants still hide in their mother earth, and the fish and 
reptiles find shelter in the ocean and the thicket ; but the 
mighty forest-trees stand with their roots firm planted in 
the ground, while with their branches they push up and up 
against the sky. And if we have l^amt the secret of man's 
thought in the childhood of his race, we may still realize 
with the savage the personal being of the ancestral Heaven 
and Earth. 

The idea of the Earth as a mother is more simple and 
obvious, and no doubt for that reason more common in the 
world, than the idea of the Heaven as a father. Among 
the native races of America the Earth-mother is one of the 
great personages of mythology. The Peruvians worshipped 
her as Mama-Pacha or ' Mother-Earth,* and the Caribs, 
when there was an earthquake, said that it was their mother 
Earth dancing, and signifying to them to dance and make 
merry likewise, which accordingly they did. Among the 
North-American Indians the Comanches call on the Earth 

1 Premare in Pauthier, * Livres Sacr^a dc rOricnt,’ p. 19 ; Doolittle, 
* Chinese/ vol. ii. p. 396. 


as their mother, and the Great Spirit as their father. A 
story told by Gregg shows a somewhat different thought 
of mythic parentage. General Harrison once called the 
Shawnee chief Tecumseh for a talk : — * Come here, Te- 
cumseh, and sit by your father ! ' he said. ‘ You my 
father ! ' replied the chief, with a stem air. ' No ! yonder 
sun (pointing towards it) is my father, and the earth is my 
mother, so I will rest on her bosom,' and he sat down on 
the ground. Like this was the Aztec fancy, as it seems 
from this passage in a Mexican prayer to Tezcatlipoca, 
offered in time of war : ' Be pleased, O our Lord, that the 
nobles who shall die in the war be peacefully and joyously 
received by the Sun and the Earth, who are the loving 
father and mother of all.'^ In the mythology of Finns, 
Lapps, and Esths, Earth-Mother is a divinely honoured 
personage. 2 Through the mythology of our own country 
the same thought may be traced, from the days when the 
Anglo-Saxon called upon the Earth, ' Hal wes thu folde, 
fira modor,’ ‘ Hail thou Earth, men’s mother,’ to the time 
when mediaeval Englishmen made a riddle of her, asking 
‘ Who is Adam’s mother ? ’ and poetry continued what 
mythology was letting fall, when Milton’s archangel pro- 
mised Adam a life to last 

* . , . . till like ripe fruit, thou drop 
Into thy mother’s lap.’ ® 

Among the Aryan race, indeed, there stands, wide and 
firm, the double myth of the *two great parents,’ as the 
Rig-Veda calls them. They are Dyaushpitar, Zck irar^/p, 
Jupiter, the * Heaven-father,’ and Prthivi mdtar, the 
* Earth-mother ; ' and their relation is still kept in mind 
in the ordinance of Brahman marriage according to the 

^ J. G. Muller, * Amer. Urrelig,* pp. 108, no, 117, 221, 369, 494, 620; 
Rivero and Tschudi, ‘Ant. of Peru,’ p. 161 ; Gregg, ‘Journal of a Santa 
F6 Trader,’ vol. ii. p. 237 ; Sahagun, ‘ Retorica, &c., Mexicana,’ cap. 3, in 
Kingsborough, ‘ Ant. of Mexico,’ vol. v. 

* Castr6n, ‘ Finn. Myth.’ p. 86. 

* Grimm, ‘,D. M.* pp. xix. 229-33, 608 ; Halliwell, * Pop. Rhymes,’ p. 153 » 
Milton, ‘ Paradise Lost,’ ix. 273, i. 535 ; see Lucretius, i. 250. 



Yajur-Veda, where the bridegroom says to the bride, ' I 
am the sky, thou art the earth, come let us marry/ When 
Greek poets called Ouranos and Gaia, or Zeus and Demeter, 
husband and wife, what they mieant wa^ the union of 
Heaven and Earth ; and when Plato said that the earth 
brought forth men, but God was their shaper, the same old 
mythic thought must have been present to his mind.^ It 
reappears in ancient Scythia ;* and again in China, where 
Heaven and Earth are called in the Shu-King ' Father and 
Mother of all things. ' Chinese philosophy naturally worked 
this idea into the scheme of the two great principles of 
nature, the Yn and Yang, male and female, heavenly and 
earthly, and from this disposition of nature they drew a 
practical moral lesson : Heaven, said the philosophers of 
the Sung d5niasty, made man, and earth made woman 
and therefore woman is to be subject to man as Earth to 

Entering next upon the world- wide myths of Sun, Moon, 
and Stars, the regularity and consistency of human imagina- 
tion may be first displayed in the beliefs connected with 
eclipses. It is well known that these , phenomena, to us 
now crucial instances of the exactness of natural laws, are, 
throughout the lower stages of civilization, the very embodi- 
ment of miraculous disaster. Among the native races of 
America it is possible to select a typical series of myths 
describing and explaining, according to the rules of savage 
philosophy, these portents of dismay. The Chiquitos of 
the southern continent thought the Moon was hunted 
across the sky by huge dogs, who caught and tore her till 
her light was reddened and quenched by the blood flowing 
from her wounds, and then the Indians, raising a frightful 

'Pictet, *Ongiiies Indo-Europ.’ part ii. pp. 663-7; Colebrookc, ‘Essays,’ 
voL i. p. 220. Plato, Repub. iii. 4 ' 4''5 5 a&roi>s o^a dtfijKe — 
dXX* 6 Beht irXdrrwK.* 

• Herod, iv. 59. 

• Plath, ‘ Religion dcr alten Chinesen ’ part i. p. 37 ; Davis, ‘ Chinese,’ 
vol. ii. p. 64 ; Legge,* Confucius,’ p. 106 ; Bastian, * Mensch,’ vol. ii. p. 437, 
vol iii. p. 302. 


howl and lamentation, would shoot across into the sky to 
drive the monsters off. The Caribs, thinking that the 
demon Maboya, hater of all light, was seeking to devour 
the Sun and Moon, would dance and howl in concert all 
night long to scare him away. The Peruvians, imagining 
such an evil spirit in the shape of a monstrous beast, raised 
the like frightful din when the Moon was eclipsed, shout- 
ing, sounding musical instruments, and beating the dogs 
to join their howls to the hideous chorus. Nor are such 
ideas extinct in our own days. In the Tupi language, the 
proper description of a solar eclipse is * oarasu jaguaretfi 
vii,' that is, ‘ Jaguar has eaten Sun ; ' and the full mean- 
ing of this phrase is displayed by tribes who still shout and 
let fly burning arrows to drive the devouring beast from his 
prey. On the northern continent, again, some savages 
believed in a great sun-swallowing dog, while others would 
shoot up arrows to defend their luminaries against the 
enemies they fancied attacking them. By the side of these 
prevalent notions there occur, however, various others ; 
thus the Caribs could imagine the eclipsed Moon hungry, 
sick, or dying ; tl\e Peruvians could fancy the Sun angry 
and hiding his face, and the sick Moon likely to fall in 
total darkness, and bring on the end of the world ; the 
Hurons thought the Moon sick, and explained their 
customary charivari of shouting men and howling dogs as 
{performed to recover her from her complaint. Passing 
on from these most primitive conceptions, it appears that 
natives of both South and North America fell upon philo- 
sophic myths somewhat nearer the real facts of the case, 
insomuch as they admit that the Sun and Moon cause 
eclipses of one another. In Cumana, men thought that 
the wedded Sun and Moon quarrelled, and that one of them 
was wounded ; and the Ojibwas endeavoured by tumultuous 
noise to distract the two from such a conflict. The course 
of progressive science went far beyond this among the 
Aztecs, who, as part of their remarkable astronomical 
knowledge, seem to have had an idea of the real cause of 



eclipses, but who kept up a relic of the old belief by con- 
tinuing to speak in mythologic phrase of the Sun and Moon 
being eaten.^ Elsewhere in the lower culture, there prevailed 
similar mythic conceptions. In the South Sea Islands 
some supposed the Sun and Moon to be swallowed by an 
offended deity, whom they therefore induced, by liberal 
offerings, to eject the luminaries from his stomach.* In 
Sumatra we have the comparatively scientific notion that 
an eclipse has to do with the action of the Sun and Moon on 
one another, and, accordingly, they make a loud noise with 
sounding instruments to prevent the one from devouring 
the other.* So, in Africa, there may be found both the 
rudest theory of the Eclipse-monster, and the more ad- 
vanced conception that a solar eclipse is ‘ the Moon catching 
the Sun.'* 

It is no cause for wonder that an aspect of the heavens so 
awful as an eclipse should in times of astronomic ignorance 
have filled men's minds with terror of a coming destruction 
of the world. It may help us still to realize this thought if 
we consider how, as Calmet pointed out many years ago, the 
prophet Joel adopted the plainest words of description of 
the solar and lunar eclipse, ‘ The sun shall be turned into 
darkness and the moon into blood ; ' nor could the thought 
of any catastrophe of nature have brought his hearers face 
to face with a more lurid and awful picture. But to our 
minds, now that the eclipse has long passed from the realm 
of mythology into the realm of science, such words can 
carry but a feeble glimmer of their early meaning. The 

^ J. G. Muller, ‘Amer. Urrelig.' pp. 53, 219, 231, 255, 395, 420; Martius, 

‘ Ethnog. Amer.’ vol. i. pp. 329, 467, 585, vol. ii. p. 109 ; Southey, ‘ Brazil, ' 
vol. i. p. 352, vol. ii. p. 371 ; De la Borde, ‘ Caraibes,* p. 525 ; Dobrizhoffer, 

‘ Abipones,' vol. ii. p. 84 ; Smith and Lowe, ‘ Journey from Lima to Para,* 
p. 230 ; Schoolcraft, ‘ Indian Tribes of N. A.* part i. p. 271 ; Charlevoix, 

‘ Nouv. France,’ vol. vi. p. 149 j Cranz, * Gronland,’ p. 295 ; Bastian, * Mensch,* 
vol. iii. p. 191 ; * Early Hist, of Mankind, ’ p- 163. 

* Ellis, ‘ Polyn. Res.’ vol. i. p, 331. 

® Marsden, * Sumatra,’ p. 194. 

* Grant in ‘ Tr. Eth. Soc.’ vol. iii. p. 90 ; Kolle, * Kanuri Proverbs, &c.’ 
p. 207. 

eclipse myths. 

ancient doctrine of the eclipse has not indeed lost its whole 
interest. To trace it upward from its early savage stages 
to the period when astronomy claimed it, and to follow the 
course of the ensuing conflict over it between theology and 
science — ended among ourselves but still being sluggishly 
fought out among less cultured nations — this is to lay 
open a chapter of the history of opinion, from which the 
student who looks forward as well as back may learn grave 

There is reason to consider most or all civilized nations 
to have started from the myth of the Eclipse-monster in 
forms as savage as those of the New World. It prevails 
still among the great Asiatic nations. The Hindus say 
that the demon Rahu insinuated himself among the gods, 
and obtained a portion of the amrita, the drink of immor, 
tality ; Vishnu smote off the now immortal head, which 
still pursues the Sun and Moon whose watchful gaze 
detected his presence in the divine assembly. Another 
version of the myth is that there are two demons, Rahu 
and Ketu, who devour Sun and Moon respectively, and who 
are described in conforjnity with the phenomena of eclipses 
Rahu being black, and Ketu red ; the usual charivari is 
raised by the populace to drive them off, though indeed, 
as their bodies have been cut off at the neck, their prey 
must of natural course slip out as soon as swallowed. Or 
Rahu and Ketu are the head and body of the dissevered 
demon, by which conception the Eclipse-monster is most 
ingeniously adapted to advanced astronomy, the head and 
tail being identified with the ascending and descending 
nodes. The following remarks on the eclipse-controversy, 
made by Mr. Samuel Davis a century ago in the Asiatick 
Researches, are still full of interest. ‘ It is evident, from 
what has been explained, that the Pundits, learned in 
the Jyotish shastru, have truer notions of the form of 
earth and the economy of the universe than are ascribed 
to the Hindoos in general : and that they must reject 
the ridiculous belief of the common Brahmuns, that 



eclipses are occasioned by the intervention of the monster 
Rahoo, with many other particulars equally unscientific 
and absurd. But as this belief is founded on explicit and 
positive declarations contained in the v6dus and pooranus, 
the divine authority of which writings no devout Hindoo 
can dispute, the astronomers have some of them cautiously 
explained such passages in those writings as disagree with 
the principles of their own science : and where recon- 
ciliation was impossible, have apologized, as well as they 
could, for propositions necessarily established in the 
practice of it, by observing, that certain things, as stated 
in other shastrus, might have been so formerly, and may 
be ^o still ; but for astronomical purposes, astronomical 
rules must be followed.' ^ It is not easy to give a more 
salient example than this of the consequence of investing 
philosophy with the mantle of religion, and allowing 
priests and scribes to convert the childlike science of an 
early age into the sacred dogma of a late one. Asiatic 
peoples under Buddhist influence show the eclipse-myth 
in its different stages.^ The rude Mongols make a clamour 
of rough music to drive the attacking Aracho (Rahu) from 
Sun or Moon. A Buddhist version mentioned by Dr. 
Bastian describes Indra the Heaven-god pursuing Rahu 
with his thunderbolt, and ripping open his belly, so that 
although he can swallow the heavenly bodies, he lets them 
slip out again.* The more civilized nations of South-East 
Asia, accepting the eclipse-demons R^u and Ketu, were not 
quite staggered in their belief by the foreigners' power of 
foretelling eclipses, nor even by learning roughly to do the 
same themselves. The Chinese have official announcement 
of an eclipse duly made beforehand, and then proceed to 
encounter the ominous monster, when he comes, with 

^ H. H. Wilson, * Vishnupurana,* pp. 78, 140 5 Skr. Die. s.v. rShu ; Sir 
W. Jones in * As. Res.’ vol. ii. p. 290 ; S. Davis, ibid,^ p. 258 j Pictet, ‘ Ori- 
gines Indo-Europ.* part ii. p. 584 j Roberts, ‘ Oriental Illustrations,* p. 7 ; 
Hardy, * Manual of Buddhism.* 

* Castr^n, ‘ Finn. Myth,’ p. 63 ; Bastian, ‘ Oestl. Asien,* vol. ii. p. 344, 



gongs and bells and the regularly appointed prayers. 
Travellers of a century or two ago relate curious details 
of such combined belief in the dragon aind the almanac, 
culminating in an ingenious argument to account for the 
accuracy of the Europeans* predictions. These clever 
people, the Siamese said, know the monster's mealtimes, 
and can tell how hungry he will be, that is, how large an 
eclipse will be required to satisfy him.' 

In Europe popular mythology kept up ideas, either of a 
fight of sun or moon with celestial enemies, or of the 
moon's fainting or sickness ; and especially remnants of 
such archaic belief are manifested in the tumultuous 
clamour raised in defence or encouragement of the afflicted 
luminary. The Romans flung firebrands into the air, and 
blew trumpets, and cljinged brazen pots and pans, ' labor- 
anti succurrere lunae.' Tacitus, relating the story of the 
soldiers' mutiny against Tiberius, tells how their plan was 
frustrated by the moon suddenly languishing in a clear sky 
(luna claro repente coelo visa languescere) : in vain by clang 
of brass and blast of trumpet they strove to drive away the 
darkness, for clouds came up and covered all, and the plot- 
ters saw, lamenting, that the gods turned away from their 
crime.* In the period of the conversion of Europe, Chris- 
tian teachers began to attack the pagan superstition, and 
to urge that men should no longer clamour and cry ‘ vince 
luna ! ' to aid the moon in her sore danger ; and at last 
there came a time when the picture of the sun or moon in 
the dragon's mouth became a mere old-fashioned symbol to 
represent eclipses in the calendar, and the saying, ‘ Dieu 
garde la lune des loups ' passed into a mocking proverb 
against fear of remote danger. Yet the ceremonial charivari 
is mentioned in our own country in the seventeenth century: 

' KLlemm, ‘ C. G.* vol. vi. p. 449 ; Doolittle, * Chinese/ vol. i. p. 308 ; 
Turpin, Richard, and Borri in Pinkerton, vol. iv. pp. 579, 725, 815 ; Bastian, 
* Oettl. Asien,’ vol. ii. p. 109, vol. iii. p. 242. See Eisenmenger, * Entdecktes 
Judenthum,’ vol. i. p. 398 (Talmudic myth). 

* Plutarch, de Facie in Orbe Lunae ; Juvenal, Sat. vi. 441 ; Plin. ii. 9 ; 
Tacit. Annal. i. 28. 



' The Irish or Welsh during eclipses run about beating 
kettles and pans, thinking their clamour and vexations 
available to the assistance of the higher orbes.' In 1654 
Nuremberg went wild with terror of an impending solar 
eclipse ; the markets ceased, the churches were crowded 
with penitents, and a record of the event remains in the 
printed thanksgiving which was issued (Danckgebeth nach 
vergangener hochstbedrohlich und hochschadlicher Sonnen- 
finstemuss), which gives thanks to the Almighty for grant- 
ing to poor terrified sinners the grace of covering the sky 
with clouds, and sparing them the sight of the awful sign in 
heaven. In our own times, a writer on French folklore was 
surprised during a lunar eclipse to hear sighs and exclama- 
tions, ‘ Mon Dieu, qu'elle est souffrante ! ' and found on 
enquiry that the poor moon was believed to be the prey of 
some invisible monster seeking to devour her.^ No doubt 
such late survivals have belonged in great measure to the 
ignorant crowd, tor the educated classes of the West have 
never suffered in its extreme the fatal Chinese union of 
scepticism and superstition. Yet if it is our mood to bewail 
the slowness with which knowledge penetrates the mass of 
mankind, there stand dismal proofs before us here. The 
eclipse remained an omen of fear almost up to our own 
century, and could rout a horror-stricken army, and fill 
Europe with dismay, a thousand years after Pliny had 
written in memorable words his eulogy of the astronomers ; 
those great men, he said, and above ordinary mortals, who, 
by discovering the laws^of the heavenly bodies, had freed the 
miserable mind of men from terror at the portents of eclipses. 

Day is daily swallowed up by Night, to be set free again 
at dawn, and from time to time suffers a like but shorter 
durance in the maw of the Eclipse and the Storm-cloud ; 

' Grimm, ‘ D. M.’ pp. 668-78, 224 ; Hanusch, * Slaw. Myth,' p. 268 ; Brand, 
* Pop. Ant.’ vol. iii. p. 152 ; Horst, ‘ Zauber-Bibliothck,’ vol. iv. p. 350; D. 
Monnier, * Traditions populaires comparies,* p. 138 ; see Migne, * Die. dcs 
Superstitions,’ art. ‘ Eclipse’ ; Cornelius Agrippa, * De Occulta Philosophia,’ 
ii. c. 45, gives a picture of the lunar eclipse-dragon. 



Summer is overcome and prisoned by dark Winter, to be 
again set free. It is a plausible opinion that such scenes 
from the great nature-drama of the conflict of light and 
darkness are, generally speaking, the simple facts, which in 
many lands and ages have been told in mythic shape, as 
legends of a Hero or maiden devoured by a Monster, and 
hacked out again or disgorged. The myths just displayed 
show with absolute distinctness, that myth can describe 
eclipse as the devouring and setting free of the personal sun 
and moon by a monster. The following Maori legend will 
supply proof as positive that the episode of the Sun's or the 
Day’s death in sunset may be dramatized into a tale of a 
personal solar hero plunging into the body of the personal 

Maui, the New Zealand cosmic hero, at the end of his 
glorious career came back to his father’s country, and was 
told that here, perhaps, he might be overcome, for here dwelt 
his mighty ancestress, Hine-nui-te-po, Great-Daughter-of- 
Night, whom ‘ you may see flashing, and as it were opening 
and shutting there, where the horizon meets the sky ; what 
you see yonder shining so brightly-red, are her eyes, and 
her teeth are as sharp and hard as pieces of volcanic glass ; 
her body is like that of a man ; and as for the pupils of her 
eyes, they are jasper ; and her hair is like the tangles 
of long sea-weed, and her mouth is like that of a barra- 
couta.’ Maui boasted of his former exploits, and said, 
‘ Let us fearlessly seek whether men are to die or live for 
ever ; ’ but his father called to mind an evil omen, that 
when he was baptizing Maui he had left out part of the 
fitting prayers, and therefore he knew that his son must 
perish. Yet he said, ‘ O, my last-born, and the strength 
of my old age, ... be bold, go and visit your great 
ancestress, who flashes so fiercely there where the edge of 
the horizon meets the sky.’ Then the birds came to Maui 
to be his companions in the enterprise, and it was evening 
when they went with him, and they came to the dwelling of 
Hine-nui-te-po, and found her fast asleep. Maui charged 



the birds not to laugh when they saw him creep into the old 
chieftainess, but when he had got altogether inside her, and 
was coming out of her mouth, then they might laugh long 
and loud. So Maui stripped off his clothes, and the skin 
on his hips, tattooed by the chisel of Uetonga, looked 
mottled and beautiful, like a mackerel's, as he crept in. 
The birds kept silence, but when he was in up to his waist, 
the little tiwakawaka could hold its laughter in no longer, 
and burst out loud with its merrj^ note ; then Maui's ances- 
tress awoke, closed on him and caught him tight, and he 
was killed. Thus died Maui, and thus death came into the 
world, for Hine-nui-te-po is the goddess both of night and 
death, and had Maui entered into her body and passed 
safely through her, men would have died no more. The 
New Zealanders hold that the Sun descends at night into 
his cavern, bathes in the Wai Ora Tane, the Water of Life, 
and returns at dawn from the under-world ; hence we may 
interpret the thought that if Man could likewise descend 
into Hades and return, his race would be immortal,^ 
Further evidence that Hine-nui-te-po is the deity of Night 
or Hades, appears in another New 2JeaIand myth. Tane, 
descending to the shades below in pursuit of his wife, comes 
to the Night (Po) of Hine-a-te-po, Daughter-of-Night, who 
says to him, ' I have spoken thus to her “ Return from this 
place, as I, Hine-a-te-po, am here. I am the barrier between 
night and day." '■ It is seldom that solar characteristics are 

^ Grey, ‘ Polyn. Myth.’ pp. 54-58 ; in his Maori texts, KLo nga Mahinga, 
pp. 28-30, Ko nga Mateatea, pp. xlviii.-ix. I have to thank Sir G. Grey for 
a more explicit and mythologically more consistent translation of the story 
of Maui’s entrance into the womb of Hine-nui-te-po and her crushing him 
to death between her thighs, than is given in his English version. Compare 
R. Taylor, ‘New Zealand,* p. 132; Schirren, * Wandersagen der Neuseel.’ 
p. 33 ; Shortland, * Trads. of N. Z.* p. 63 (a version of the myth of Maui’s 
death) ; sec also pp. 171, 180, and Baker in * Tr. Eth. Soc.* vol. i. p. 53. 

* John White, * Ancient History of the Maori,’ vol. i. p. 146. In former 
editions a statement received from New Zealand was inserted, that the cry of^ 
laugh of the tiwakawaka or pied fantail is only heard at sunset. This, how-^ 
ever does not agree with the accounts of Sir W. Lawry Buller, who, in his 
* Birds of New Zealand,’ vol. i. p. 69, supplemented by his answer to my 
enquiry, makes it clear that the bird sings in the daytime. Thus the argu- 


more distinctly marked in the several details of a myth 
than they are here. 

In the list of myths "of engulfing monsters, there are 
others which seem to display, with a clearness almost ap- 
proaching this, an origin suggested by the familiar spectacle 
of Day and Night, or Light and Darkness. The simple 
story of the Day may well be told in the Karen tale of Ta 
Ywa, who was bom a tiny child, and went to the Sun to 
make him grow ; the Sun tried in vain to destroy him by 
rain and heat, and then blew him up large till his head 
touched the sky ; then he went forth and travelled from his 
home far over the earth ; and among the adventures which 
befell him was this — a snake swallowed him, but they ripped 
the creature up, and Ta Ywa came back to life,^ like the 
Sun from the ripped up serpent-demon in the Buddhist 
eclipse-myth. In North American Indian mythology, a 
principal personage is Manabozho, an Algonquin hero or 
deity whose solar character is well brought into view in an 
Ottawa myth which tells us that Manabozho (whom it calls 
Na-na-bou-jou) is the elder brother of Ning-gah-be-ar-nong 
Manito, the Spirit of the West, god of the country of the 
dead in the region of the setting sun. Manabozho 's solar 
nature is again revealed in the story of his driving the West, 
nis father, across mountain and lake to the brink of the 
world, though he cannot kill him. This sun-hero Mana- 
bozho, when he angled for the King of Fishes, was swal- 
lowed, canoe and all ; then he smote the monster's heart 
with his war-club till he would fain have cast him up into 
the lake again, but the hero set his canoe fast across the 
fish's throat inside, and finished slaying him ; when the 
dead monster drifted ashore, the gulls pecked an opening 
for Manabozho to come out. This is a story familiar to 

ent connecting the sunset-song with the story as a sunset-myth falls away, 
in another version of Maui’s death, in White, vol. ii. p. 1 1 2, the laughing 
bird is the patatai or little swamp-rail, which cries at and after nightfall 
and in the early morning (BuUer, vol. ii. p. 98). Note to 3rd cd.] 

^ Mason, * Karens,' in * Joum. As. Soc. Bengal,' 1865, part ii. p. 178, Ac, 



English readers from its introduction into the poem of 
Hiawatha. In another version, the tale is told of the Little 
Monedo of the Ojibwas, who also corresponds with the New 
Zealand Maui in being the Sun-Catcher;- among his various 
prodigies, he is swallowed by the great fish, and cut out 
again by his sister.^ South Africa is a region where there 
prevail myths which seem to tell the story of the world im- 
prisoned in the monster Night, and delivered by the dawn- 
ing Sun. The Basutos have their myth of the hero Litao- 
lane ; he came to man’s stature and wisdom at his birth ; 
all mankind save his mother and he had been devoured by 
a monster ; he attacked the creature and was swallowed 
whole, but cutting his way out he set free all the inhabitants 
of the world. The Zulus tell stories as pointedly suggestive. 
A mother follows her children into the maw of the great 
elephant, and finds forests and rivers and highlands, and 
dogs and cattle, and people who had built their villages 
there ; a description which is simply that of the Zulu 
Hades. When the Princess Untombinde was carried off 
by the Isikqukqumadevu, the ‘ bloated, squatting, bearded 
monster,’ the King gathered his army and attacked it, but it 
swallowed up men, and dogs, and cattle, all but one warrior; 
he slew the monster, and there came out cattle, and horses, 
and men, and last of all the princess herself. The stories 
of these monsters being cut open imitate, in graphic savage 
fashion, the cries of the imprisoned creatures as they came 
back from darkness into daylight. ' There came out first 
a fowl, it said, Kukuluku ! I see the world ! ” For, for a 
long time it had been without seeing it. After the fowl 
there came out a man, he said Hau ! I at length see the 
world ! ” ’ and so on with the rest.* 

* Schoolcraft, * Indian Tribes/ part ill, p. 318 ; ‘Algic Res.’ vol. 1 . p. 135, 
&c., 144; John Tanner, ‘Narrative/ p. 357; see Brinton, ‘Myths of New 
World/ p, 166. For legends of Sun-Catcher, sec ‘ Early Hist, of Mankind,’ 
ch. xii. 

* Casalis, ‘ Basutos,’ p. 347 ; Callaway, ‘ Zulu Tales,’ vol. i. pp. 56, 69, 84, 
334 (see also the story, p. 241, of the frog who swallowed the princess and 
carried her safe home). See Cranz, p. 271 (Greenland angekok swallowed by 



The well-known modem interpretation of the myth of 
Perseus and Andromeda, or of Herakles and.Hesione, as a 
description of the Sun slaying the Darkness, has its con- 
nexion with this group of legends. It is related in a 
remarkable version of this story, that when the Trojan 
King Laomedon had bound his daughter Hesione to the 
rock, a sacrifice to Poseidon’s destroying sea-monster, 
Herakles delivered the maiden, springing full-armed into 
the fish’s gaping throat, and coming forth hairless after 
three days' hacking within. This singular story, probably 
in part of Semitic origin, combines the ordinary myth of 
Hesione or Andromeda with the story of Jonah’s fish, for 
which indeed the Greek sculpture of Andromeda’s monster 
served as the model in early Christian art, while Joppa was 
the place where vestiges of Andromeda’s chains on a rock in 
front of the town were exhibited in Pliny’s time, and whence 
the bones of a whale were carried to Rome as relics of 
Andromeda’s monster. To recognize the place which the 
nature-myth of the Man swallowed by the Monster occupies 
in mythology, among remote and savage races and onward 
among the higher nations, affects the argument on a point 
of Biblical criticism. It strengthens the position of the 
critics who, seeing that the Book of Jonah consists of two 
wonder-episodes adapted to enforce two great religious 
lessons, no longer suppose intention of literal narrative in 
what they may fairly consider as the most elaborate parable 
of the Old Testament. Had the Book of Jonah happened 
to be lost in old times, and only recently recovered, it is 
indeed hardly likely that any other opinion of it than this 
would find acceptance among scholars.^ 

bear and walrus and thrown up again), and Bastian, * Mensch,* vol. ii. pp. 
506-7 ; J. M. Harris in * Mem. Anthrop. Soc.* vol. ii. p. 31 (similar notions 
in Africa and New Guinea). 

^ Tzetzes ap. Lycophron, Cassandra, 33. As to connexion with Joppa and 
Phoenicia, see Plin. v. 14 ; ix. 4 ; Mela, i. 1 1 ; Strabo, xvi. 2, 28 ; Movers, 
Phonizier, vol. i. pp. 422-3. The expression in Jonah, ii. 2, * out of the 
belly of Hades * (mibten sheol, €k KoiXlas ^dov) seems a relic of the original 
meaning of the myth. 



The conception of Haxles as a monster swallowing men in 
death, was actually familiar to Christian thought. Thus, to 
take instances from different periods,' the account of the 
Descent into Hades in the Apocryphal Gospfel of Nicodemus 
makes Hades speak in his proper personality, complaining 
that his belly is in pain, when the Saviour is to descend and 
set free the saints imprisoned in it from the beginning of 
the world ; and in mediaeval representations of this deliver- 
ance, the so-called ' Harrowing of Hell,' Christ is depicted 
standing before a huge fish-like monster’s open jaws, whence 
Adam and Eve are coming forth first of mankind.* With 
even more distinctness of m3Thical meaning, the man- 
devouring monster is introduced in the Scandinavian Eireks- 
Saga. Eirek, ioume5nng toward Paradise, comes to a stone 
bridge guarded by a dragon, and entering into its maw, 
finds that he has arrived in the world of bliss.* But in 
another wonder-tale, belonging to that legendary growth 
which formed round early Christian history, no such dis- 
tinguishable remnant of nature-m3rth survives. St. Margaret, 
daughter of a priest of Antioch, had been cast into a 
dungeon, and there Satan came upon her in the form of a 
dragon and swallowed her alive ; 

* Maiden Mcrgrete tho Loked her beside, 

And sees a loathly dragon, Out of an him glide : 

His eyen were full griesly. His mouth opened wide. 

And Margrete might no where flee There she must abide. 

Maiden Margrete Stood still as any stone. 

And that loathly worm, To hcr-ward gan gone 

Took her in his foul motith. And swallowed her flesh and bone. 

Anon he brast — Damage hath she none ! 

Maiden Mergrete Upon the dragon stood ; 

Blyth was her harte, And joyful was her mood.* * 

Stories belonging to the same group are not unknown to 

^ ‘ Apocr. Gosp.’ Nicodemus, ch. xx, ; Mrs. Jameson, * History of our Lord 
in Art,* vol. ii. p. 258. 

• Eireks Saga, 3, 4, in * Flateyjarbok,* vol. i., Christiania, 1859 > Baring- 
Gould, ‘ Myths of the Middle Ages,’ p. 238. 

• Mrs. Jameson, * Sacred and Legendary Art,* vol. ii. p. 138. 


European folk-lore. One is the story of Little Red Riding- 
hood, mutilated in the English nursery version, but known 
more perfectly by old wives in Germany, who can tell that 
the lovely little maid in her shining red satin cloak was 
swallowed with her grandmother by the W( )lf , but they b< Ah 
came out safe and sound when the hunter cut open the sleejv 
ing beast. Any one who can fancy with prince Hal, ‘ the 
blessed sun himself a fair hot wench in flame-coloured 
taffeta/ and can then imagine her swallowed up by Skdll, 
the Sun-devouring Wolf of Scandinavian mythology, may 
be inclined to class the tale of Little Red Ridingliood as a 
myth of sunset and sunrise. There is indeed another story 
in Grimm's Ma’rchen, partly the same as this one, which we 
can hardly doubt to have a quaint touch of sun-myth in it. 
It is called the Wolf and Seven Kids, and tells of the Wolf 
swallowing the kids all but the youngest of the seven, wlio 
was hidden in the clock-case. As in Little Red Riding- 
hood, they cut open the Wolf and fill him with stones. I'his 
tale, which took its present shape since the invention of 
clocks, looks as though the tale-teller was thinking, not of 
real kids and wolf, but of days of the week swallowed by 
night, or how should he have hit upon such a fancy as that 
the wolf could not get at the youngest of the seven kids, 
because it was hidden (like to-day) in the clock case ? ' 

It may be worth while to raise the question apropos of 
this nursery tale, does the peasant folk-lore of modern 
Europe really still display episodes of nature-myth, not as 

^ J. and W. Grimm, * Kinder und Hausmarchen/ vol. i. pp. 26, 140 ; vol.iii. 
p. 15. [Sec ref. to these two stories, * Early Hist, of M.’ ist cd. (1865) p. 338.] 
I find that Sir G. W. Cox, ‘Mythology’ (1870), vol. i. p. 358, had noticed the 
Wolf and Seven Kids as a myth of the days of the week (Note to 2nd ( d.). 
For mentions of the wolf of darkness, sec Hanusch, p. 192 ; Edda, ‘ (lylfa- 
ginning,* 12 ; Grimm, ‘ D. M.’ pp. 224, 668. With the episode of the stones 
substituted compare the myth of Zeus and Kronos. For various other stories 
belonging to the group of the Man swallowed by the Monster, see Lucian, 
Historise Vcrac I. ; Hardy, ‘ Manual of Buddhism,* p. 501 ; Lane, ‘ Thonsanrl 
and One Nights,* vol. iii. p. 104 ; HalliwcH, ‘ Pop. Rhymes,’ p. 98 ; ‘ Nnr erv 
Rhymes,* p. 48 j ‘ Early Hist, of Mankind,* p. 337. 



niere broken-down and senseless fragments, but in full shape 
and significance ? In answer it will be enough to quote the 
story of Vasilissa the Beautiful, brought forward by Mr. W. 
Ralston in one of hislectureson Russian Folk-lore. Vasilissa's 
stepmother and two sisters, plotting against her life, send 
her to get a light at the house of Baba Yaga, the witch, and 
her journey contains the following history of the Day, told in 
truest mythic fashion. Vasilissa goes and wanders, wanders 
in the forest. She goes, and she shudders. Suddenly before 
her bounds a rider, he himself white, and clad in white, the 
horse under him white, and the trappings white. And day 
began to dawn . She goes farther, when a second rider bounds 
forth, himself red, clad in red, and on a red horse. The sun 
began to rise. She goes on all day, and towards evening 
arrives at the witch's house. Suddenly there comes again a 
rider, himself black, clad all in black, and on a black horse ; 
he bounded to the gates of the Baba Yaga and disappeared 
as if he had sunk through the earth. Night fell. After this, 
when Vasilissa asks the witch, who was the white rider, she 
answi rs, ' That is my clear Day ; ' who was the red rider,. 
‘ That is my red Sun"; ' who was the black rider, ' That is 
my black Night ; they are all my trusty friends.' Now, 
considering that the story of Little Red Ridinghood belongs 
to the same class of folk-lore tales as this story of Vasilissa 
the Beautiful, we need not be afraid to seek in the one for 
traces of the same archaic type of nature-myth which the 
other not only keeps up, but keeps up with the fullest 
consciousness of meaning. 

The development of nature-myth into heroic legend seems 
to have taken place among the barbaric tribes of the South 
Sea Islands and North America much as it took place among 
the ancestors of the classic nations of the Old World. We 
are not to expect accurate consistency or proper sequence of 
episodes in the heroic cycles, but to judge from the charac- 
teristics of the episodes themselves as to the ideas which 
suggested them. As regards the less cultured races, a 
glance at two legendary cycles, one from Polynesia and the 



other from North America, will serve to give an idea of the 
varieties of treatment of phases of sun-myth. The New 
Zealand myth of Matii, mixed as it may be with other 
fancies, is in its most striking features the story of Day and 
Night, The story of the Sun's birth from the ocean is thus 
told. There were five brothers, all called Maui, and it was 
the youngest Maui who had been thrown into the sea by 
Taranga his mother, and rescued by his ancestor Tama- 
nui-ki-te-Rangi, Great-Man-in-Heaven, who took him to his 
houses and hung him in the roof. Then is given in fanciful 
personality the tale of the vanishing of Night at dawn. One 
night, when Taranga came home, she found little Maui with 
his brothers, and when she knew her last-born, the child of 
her old age, she took him to sleep with her, as she had been 
used to take the other Mauis his brothers, before they were 
grown up. But the little Maui grew vexed and suspicious, 
when he found that every morning his mother rose at dawn 
and disappeared from the house in a moment, not to return 
till nightfall. So one night he crept out and stopped every 
crevice in the wooden window and the doorway, that the day 
might not shine into the house ; then broke the faint light 
of early dawn, and then the sun rose and mounted into the 
heavens, but Taranga slept on, for she knew not it was broad 
day outside. At last she sprang up, pulled out the stopping 
of the chinks, and fled in dismay. Then Maui saw her 
plunge into a hole in the ground and disappear, and thus he 
found the deep cavern by which his mother went down below 
the earth as each night departed. After this, follows the 
episode of Maui’s visit to his ancestress Muri-ranga-whenua, 
at that western Land’s End where Maori souls descend into 
the subterranean region of the dead. She sniffs as he comes 
towards her, and distends ’herself to devour him, but when 
she has sniffed round from south by east to north, she smells 
his coming by the western breeze, and so knows that he is 
a descendant of hers. He asks for her wondrous jawbone, 
she gives it to him, and it is his weapon in his next exploit 
when he caitches the sun, Tama-nui-te-Ra, Great-Man-Sun, 



in the noose, and wounds him and makes him go slowly. 
With a fishhook pointed with the miraculous jawbone, and 
smeared with his own blood for bait, Maui next performs his 
most famous feat of fishing up New Zealand, still called Te- 
Ika-a-Maui, the fish of Maui. To xmderstand this, we must 
compare the various versions of the story in these and other 
Pacific Islands, which show that it is a general myth of the 
rising of dry land from beneath the ocean. It is said 
elsewhere that it was Maui's grandfather, Rangi-Whenua, 
Heaven-Earth, who gave the jawbone. More distinctly, it 
is also said that Maui had two sons, whom he slew when 
yoimg to take their jawbones ; now these two sons must be 
the Morning and Evening, for Maui made the morning and 
evening stars from an eye of each ; and it was with the jaw- 
bone of the eldest that he drew up the land from the deep. 
It is related that when Maui pulled up his fish, he found it 
was land, on which were houses, and stages on which to 
put food, and dogs barking, and fires burning, and people 
working. It appears, moreover, that the submarine region 
out of which the land was lifted was the under-world of 
Night, for Maui’s hook had caught the gable of the house 
of Hine-nui-te-po, Great-Daughter-of-Night, and when the 
land came up her house was on it, and she was standing 
near. Another Maori legend tells how Maui takes fire in 
his hands, it burns him, and he springs with it into the sea : 
' When he sank in the waters, the sun for the first time 
set, and darkness covered the earth. When he found that 
all was night, he immediately pursued the sun, and brought 
him back in the morning.’ When Maui carried or flung the 
fire into the sea, he set a volcano burning. It is told, again, 
that when Maui had put out all fires on earth, his mother 
sent him to get new fire from her ancestress Mahuika. The 
Tongans, in their version of the myth, relate how the 
youngest Maui discovers the cavern that - leads to Bulotu, 
the west-land of the dead, and how his father, another 
Maui, sends him to the yet older Maui who sits by his great 
fire ; the two wrestle, and Maui brings away fire for men. 



leaving the old earthquake-god lying crippled below. The 
legendary group thus dramatizes the birth of the sun from 
the ocean and the depfarture of the night, the extinction of 
the light at suns6t and its return at dawn, and the descent 
of the sun to the western Hades, the under-world of night 
and death, which is incidentally identified with the region 
of subterranean fire and earthquake. Here, indeed, the 
characteristics of true nature-myth are not indistinctly 
marked, and Maui’s death by his ancestress the Night fitly 
ends his solar career.^ 

It is a sunset-story, very differently conceived, that 
begins the beautiful North American Indian myth of the 
Red Swan. The story belongs to the Algonquin race. 
The hunter Ojibwa had just killed a bear and begun to 
skin him, when suddenly something red tinged all the air 
around. Reaching the shore of a lake, the Indian saw it 
was a beautiful red swan, whose plumage glittered in the 
sun. In vain the hunter shot his shafts, for the bird 
floated unharmed and unheeding, but at last he remem- 
bered three magic arrows at home, which had been his 
father’s. The first second arrow flew near and 

nearer, the third struck the swan, and flapping its wings, 
it flew off slowly towards the sinking of the sun. With 
full sense of the poetic solar meaning of this episode 
Longfellow has adapted it as a sunset picture, in one of his 
Indian poems : 

‘ Can it be the sun descending 
O’er the level plain of water ? 

Or the Red Swan floating, flying, 

Wounded by the magic arrow, 

^ Grey, * Polyn. Myth.’ p. i6, &c., sec 144 5 Jas. White, * Ancient History 
of the Maori,’ vol. ii. pp. 76, 115. Other details in Schirren, ‘Wandersagen 
der Neuseelander,’ pp. 32-7, 143-51 ; R. Taylor, ‘ New Zealand,* p. 124, &c. ; 
compare 116, 141, &c., and volcano-myth, p. 248; Yate, ’New Zealand,’ 
p. 142 j Polack, ‘M. and C. of NewZ.* vol. i. p. 15; S. S. Farmer, ’Tonga Is.’ 
p. 134. See also Turner, ’Polynesia,’ pp. 252, 527 (Samoan version). In 
comparing the group of Maui-lcgcnds it is to be observed that New Zealand 
Mahuika and* Maui-Tikitiki correspond to Tongan Mafuike and Kijikiji, 
Samoan Mafuie and Tiitii. 



Staining all the waves with crimson, 

With the crimson of its life-blood, 

Filling all the air with splej^idour, 

With the splendour of its plumage ? ’ 

The story goes on to tell how the hunter speeds westward 
in pursuit of the Red Swan. At lodges where he rests, 
they tell him she has often passed there, but those who 
followed her have never returned. She is the daughter of 
an old magician who has lost his scalp, which Ojibwa 
succeeds in recovering for him and puts back on his head, 
and the old man rises from the earth, no longer aged and 
decrepit, but splendid in youthful glory. Ojibwa departs, 
and the magician calls forth the beautiful maiden, now not 
his daughter but his sister, and gives her to his victorious 
friend. It was in after days, when Ojibwa had gone home 
with his bride, that he travelled forth, and coming to an 
opening in the earth, descended and came to the abode of 
departed spirits ; there he could behold the bright western 
region of the good, and the dark cloud of wickedness. But 
the spirits told him that his brethren at home were quarrel- 
ling for the possession of his wife, an^ at last, after long 
wandering, this Red Indian Odysseus returned to his 
mourning constant Penelope, laid the magic arrows to his 
bow, and stretched the wicked suitors dead at his feet.^ 
Thus savage legends from Polynesia and America, possibly 
indeed shaped under European influence, agree with the 
theory* that Odysseus visiting the Elysian fields, or Orpheus 
descending to the land pf Hades to bring back the * wide- 
shining ' Eurydik^, are but the Sun himself descending to, 
and ascending from, the world below. 

Where Night and Hades take personal shape in myth, 

* Schoolcraft, ‘ Algic Re«/ vol. ii. pp. 1-33. The three arrows recur in 
Manabosho’s slaying the Shining Manitu, vol. i. p. 153. See the remarkably 
corresponding three magic arrows in Orvar Odd's Saga \ Nilsson, * Stone Age,* 
p. 197. The Red-Swan myth of sunset is introduced in George Eliot's 
‘ Spanish Gypsy,’ p. 63 ; Longfellow, ‘ Hiawatha,* xii. 

* See Kuhn's * Zeitschrift,* i860, vol, ix. p. 212; Max Mdller, ‘Chips,* 
vol. ii. p. 127 ; Cox, * Mythology,* vol. i. p. 256, vol. ii, p. 239. 



we may expect to find conceptions like that simply shown 
in a Sanskrit word for evening, ‘ rajanimukha,’ i.e., 
‘mouth of night.’ 'Thus the Scandinavians told of Hel 
the death-goddfess, with mouth gaping like the mouth of 
Fenrir her brother, the moon-devouring wolf ; and an old 
German poem describes Hell’s abyss yawning from heaven 
to earth : 

* der was dcr Hellcn gelich 
diu daz abgrunde 
begenit mit ir munde 
unde den himel zuo der erdcn/^ 

The sculptures on cathedrals still display for the terror of 
the wicked the awful jaws of Death, the mouth of Hell 
wide yawning to swallow its victims. Again, where barbaric 
cosmology accepts the doctrine oi a firmament arching 
above the earth, and of an under world whither the sun 
descends when he sets and man when he dies, here th6 
conception of gates or portals, whether really or metaphori- 
cally meant, has its place. Such is the great gate which 
the Gold Coast negro describes the Heaven as opening in 
the morning for the Sun; such were the ancient Greek's 
gates of Hades, and the ancient Jew's gates of Sheol. 
There are three mythic descriptions connected with these 
ideas found among the Karens, the Algonquins, and the 
Aztecs, which are deserving of special notice. The Karens 
of Burma, a race among whom ideas are in great measure 
borrowed from the more cultured Buddhists they have 
been in contact with, have precedence here for the dis- 
tinctness of their statement. They say that in the west 
there are two massive strata of rocks which are con- 
tinually opening and shutting, and between these strata 
the sun descends at sunset, but how the upper stratum 
is supported, no one can describe. The idea comes well 
into view in the description of a Bghai festival, where 
sacrificed fowls are thus addressed, — ‘ The seven heavens, 
thou ascendest to the top ; the seven earths, thou de- 

^ Grimm, ‘ D. M.* pp. 291, 767. 



sccndest to the bottom. Thou arrivest at Khu-the ; thou 
goest unto Tha-ma [i.e., Yama, the Judge of the Dead 
in Hades.] Thou goest through the crevices of rocks, 
though goest through the crevices of precipices. At the 
opening and shutting of the western gates of rock, thou 
guest in between ; thou goest below the earth where the 
Sun travels. I employ thee, I exhort thee. I make thee 
a messenger, I make thee an angel, &c.'^ Passing from 
Burma to the region of the North American lakes, we find 
a corresponding description in the Ottawa tale of Iosco, 
already (jiioted here for its clearly marked personifica- 
tion of Sun and Moon. This legend, though modem 
in ^ome of its description of the Europeans, their ships, 
and th<'ir far-off land across the sea, is evidently 
lound(‘d on a myth of Day and Night. Iosco seems to 
be ]oskel\a, th(‘ Wliite One, whose contest with his brother 
'I'awiscara, the Dark One, is an early and most genuine 
Huron nature-myth of Day and Night. Iosco and his 
friends travel for years eastward and eastward to reach 
the; sun, and come at last to the dv\'elling of Manabozho 
iK'ar the edge of the world, and then, a little beyond, 
to tlie chasm to be passed on the way to the land of the 
Sun and Moon. They began to hear the sound of the 
b(*aling sky, and it seemed near at hand, but they had far 
to travel bedore they reached the place. When the sky 
came down, its pressure would force gusts of wind from the 
opi ning, so strong that the travellers could hardly keep 
their feet, and the sur| passed but a short distance 
above their heads, The sky would come down with 
vioK nee, l)ut it would rise slowly and gradually. Iosco and 
oni; of his friends stood near the edge, and with a great 
effort Icajit through and gained a foothold on the other 
side ; but the other two were fearful and undecided, and 

* Mason, ‘ Karens,’ in ‘ Journ. As. Soc. Bengal,’ 1865, part ii. pp. 133-4. 
Prof. Licbrecht, in his notice of the ist cd. of the present work, in ‘ Gott. Gel. 
Anz.’ 1872, p. 1290, refers to a Burmese legend in Bastian, Q. A. vol. ii. 
p. 5 1 5, and a Mongol legend, Gesser Chan, book iv. 



when their companions called to them through the dark- 
ness, 'Leap! leap! the sky is on its way down,' they 
looked up and saw it descending, but paralyzed by fear 
they sprang so feebly that they only reached the other 
side with their hands, and the sky at the same moment 
striking violently on the earth with a terrible sound, 
forced them into the dreadful black abyss. ^ Lastly, in the 
funeral ritual of the Aztecs there is found a like description 
of the first peril that the shade had to encounter on the 
road leading to that subterranean Land of the Dead, which 
the sun lights when it is night on earth. Giving the 
corpse the first of the passports that were to carry him 
safe to his journey’s end, the survivors said to him, ‘ With 
these you will pass between the two mountains that smite 
one against the other. On the suggestion of this group 
of solar conceptions and that of Maui's death, we may 
perhaps explain as derived from a broken-down fancy of 
solar myth that famous episode of Greek legend, where 
the good ship Argo passed between the Sympl^gades, those 
two huge cliffs that opened and closed again with swift 
and violent collision.* Can any effort of baseless fancy 
have brought into the poet’s mind a thought so quaint in 
itself, yet so fitting with the Karen and Aztec myths of 
the gates of Night and Death ? With the Maori legend, 
the Argonautic tale has a yet deeper coincidence. In both 
the event is to determine the future ; but this thought is 
worked out in two converse ways. If Maui passed through 

' Schoolcraft, ‘ Algic Researches,^ vol. ii. p. 40, &c. ; Loskiel, ‘Gesch. der 
Mission,’ Barby, 1789, p. 47 (the English edition, part i. p. 35, is incorrect). 
See also Brinton, ‘Myths of New World,’ p. 63. In an Esquimaux tale, 
Giviok comes to the two mountains which shut and open ; paddling swiftly 
between, he gets through, but the mountains clashing together crush the 
stern of his kayak: Rink, ‘Eskimoische Eventyr og Sagn,’ p. 98, referred to 
by Licbrccht, l.c. 

* Kingsborough, ‘Antiquities of Mexico,’ vol. i. j Torquemanda, ‘ Monarquia 
Indiana,’ xiii. 47 ; ‘ Con estos has dc pasar por medio de dos Sierras, que 
se estan batiendo, y encontrando la una con la otra.’ Clavigero, vol. ii. 
P- 94 - 

* Apollodor. V 9i 22 ; Appollon. Rhod. Argonautica, ii. 310-616 ; Pindar, 
‘ Pythia Carm.’ iv. 370. 



the entrance of Night and returned to Day, death should 
not hold mankind ; if the Argo passed the Clashers, the 
way should lie open between them for ever. The Argo 
sped through in safety, and the Sympl6gades can clash no 
longer on the passing ship ; Maui was crushed, and man 
comes not forth again from Hades. 

There is another solar metaphor which describes the sun, 
not as a personal creature, but as a member of a yet greater 
being. He is called in Java and Sumatra ' Mata-ari,* in 
Madagascar ‘ Maso-andro,* the ' Eye of Day.' If we 
look for translation of this thought from metaphor into 
myth, we may find it in the New Zealand stories of Maui 
setting his own eye up in heaven as the Sun, and the eyes 
of his two children as the Morning and the Evening Stars.' 
The nature-myth thus implicitly and explicitly stated is 
one widely developed on Aryan ground. It forms part of 
that macrocosmic description of the universe well known in 
Asiatic myth, and in Europe expressed in that passage of 
the Orphic poem which tells of Jove, at once the world's 
ruler and the world itself : his glorious head irradiates the 
sky where hangs his starry hair, the waters of the sounding 
ocean are the belt that girds his sacred body the earth 
omniparent, his eyes are sun and moon, his mind, moving 
and ruling by counsel all things, is the royal aether that no 
voice nor sound escapes : 

* Sunt oculi Phoebus, Phoeboque adversa recurrens 
Cynthia. Mens verax nullique obnoxius aether 
Regius interitu', qui cuncta movetque regitque 
Consiiio. Vox nuUa potest, sonitusve, nec uUus 
Hancce Jovis sobolem strepitus, nec fama latere. 

Sic animi sensum, et caput immortale beatus 
Obtinet : iliustre, immensum, immutabile pandent, 

Atque lacertonim valido stans robore certus.** 

Where the Aryan myth-maker takes no thought of the 

' Polack, * Manners of N. Z' vol. i. p. i6 ; * New Zealand,* vol. i. p. 358 ; 
Yatc, p. 142 ; Schirren, pp. 88, 165. 

* £useb. Praep. Evang. iii. 9. 



lesser light, he can in various terms describe the sun as the 
eye of heaven. In the Rig-Veda it is the ‘ eye of Mitra, 
Varuna, and Agni chakshuh Mitrasya Varunasyah 
Agneh.'^ In the Zend-Avesta it is ' the shining sun with 
the swift horses, the eye of Ahura-Mazda ; ' elsewhere both 
eyes, apparently sun and moon, are praised.* To Hesiod it 
is the ‘all-seeing eye of Zeus* — \dvTa I8wv Aibs 6(t>6akfji6s :* 
Macrobius speaks of antiquity calling the sun the eye of 
Jove — * rl rjkios; ovpdvLos 6<f)$akfi6s^^ ^ The old Germans, in 
calling the sun * Wuotan's eye/^ recognized Wuotan, Woden 
Odhin, as being himself the divine Heaven. These mythic 
expressions are of the most unequivocal type. By the hint 
they give, conjectural interpretations may be here not indeed 
asserted, but suggested, for two of the quaintest episodes of 
ancient European myth. Odin, the All-father, say the old 
skalds of Scandinavia, sits among his JEsir in the city 
Asgard, on his high throne Hlidskialf (Lid-shelf), whence 
he can look down over the whole world discerning all the 
deeds of men. He is an old man wrapped in his wide cloak, 
and clouding his face with his wide hat, ‘ os pileo ne cultu 
proderetur obnubens,* as Saxo Grammaticus has it. Odin 
is one-eyed ; he desired to drink from Mimir*s well, but he 
had to leave there one of his eyes in pledge, as it is said in 
the Voluspa : 

‘ All know I, Odin I Where thou hiddest thine eye 
In Mimir’s famous well. 

Mead drinks Mimir every morning 

From Wale-father’s pledge — Wit ye what this is ? ’ 

As Odin's single eye seems certainly to be the sun in 
heaven, one may guess what is the lost eye in the well 
— perhaps the sun's own reflection in any pool, or more 

^ Rig-Veda, i. 115; Bdhtlingk and Roth, s.v. * mitra.’ 

•Avesta, tr. Spiegel, ‘ Ya^na,’ i. 35 ; iii., Ixvii., 61-2; compare Burnouf, 
‘ Ya^na.’ * 

* Macrob. Saturnal. i. 2i, 13. See Max Muller, ‘ Chips,’ vol. ii. p. 85. 

^ Grimm, ‘Deutsche Myth.’ p. 665. See also Hanusch, ‘Slaw. Myth.’ 
P 213. 



likely that of the moon, which in popular myth is told 
of as found in the welL^ Possibly, too, some such solar 
f^cy may explain part of the myth of Perseus. There 
are three Scandinavian Noms, whose names are Urdhr, 
Verdhandi, and Skuld — ^Was, and Is, and Shall-be — 
and these three maidens are the ' Weird sisters ' who 
fix the lifetime of all men. So the Fates, the Parkai, 
daughters of the inevitable Anagke, divide among them 
the periods of time : Lachesis sings the past, Klotho 
the present, Atropos the future. Now is it allowable to 
consider these fatal sisters as of common nature with 
two other mythic sister-triads — the Graiai and their 
kinsfolk the Gorgons ?® If it be so, it is easy to under- 
stand why of the three Gorgons one alone was mortal, 
whose life her two immortal sisters could not save, for 
the deathless past and future cannot save the ever-dying 
present. Nor would the riddle be hard to read, what 
is the one eye that the Graiai had between them, and 
passed from one to another ? — the eye of day — the sun, 

' £dda, * Vdluspa/ 22 j * Gylfaginning,* 15. See Grimm, * D.M.* p. 133 ; 
* Reinhart Fuchs.’ 

* As to the identification of the Norns and the Fates, see Grimm, ‘ D. M.* 
pp. 376-86; Max Muller, ‘Chips,’ vol. ii. p. 154. It is to be observed in 
connexion with the Perseus-myth, that another of its obscure episodes, the 
Gorgon’s head turning those who look on it into stone, corresponds with 
myths of the sun itself. In Hispani6la, men came out of two caves (thus 
being born of their mother Earth) ; the giant who guarded these caves 
strayed one night, and the rising sun turned him into a great rock called 
Kauta, just as the Gorgon’s head turned Atlas the Earth-bearer into the 
mountain that be^rs his name ; after this, others of the early cave-men were 
surprised by the sunlight, and turned into stones, trees, plants or beasts 
(Friar Roman Pane in ‘ Life of Columbus in Pinkerton, vol. xii. p. 80 ; 
J. G. Miiller, ‘Amcr. Urrelig.’ p. 179). In Central America a Quiche legend 
relates how the ancient animals were petrified by the Sun (Brasseur, * Popol 
Vuh,’ p. 245). Thus the Americans have the analogue of the Scandinavian 
myths of giants and dwarfs surprised by daylight outside their hiding-places, 
and turned to stones. Such fancies appear connected with the fancied human 
shapes of rocks or * standing stones ’ which peasants still account for as 
transformed creatures. Thus in Fiji, two rocks are a male and female deity 
turned to stone at daylight, Seemann, ‘ Viti,’ p. 66 ; see Liebrecht in ‘ Heidel- 
berg. Jahrb.’ 1864, p. 216. This idea is brought also into the Perseus-myth, 
for the rocks abounding in Seriphos are the islanders thus petrified by the 
Gorgon’s head. 


that the past gives up to the present, and the present 
to the future. 

Compared with the splendid Lord of Day, the pale Lady 
of Night takes, in myth as in nature, a lower and lesser 
place. Among the wide legendary group which associates 
together Sun and Moon, two striking examples are to be 
seen in the traditions by which half-civilized races of South 
America traced their rise from the condition of the savage 
tribes around them. These legends have been appealed to 
even by modem writers as gratefully remembered records 
of real human benefactors, who carried long ago to America 
the culture of the Old World. But happily for historic 
truth, mythic tradition tells its tales without expurgating 
the episodes which betray its real character to more critical 
observation. The Muyscas of the high plains of Bogota 
were once, they said, savages without agriculture, religion, 
or law ; but there came to them from the East an old and 
bearded man, Bochica, the child of the Sim, and he taught 
them to till the fields, to clothe themselves, to worship the 
gods, to become a nation. But Bochica had a wicked, 
beautiful wife, Huythaca, who loved to spite and spoil her 
husband's work ; arid she it was who made the river swell 
till the land was covered by a flood, and but a few of man- 
kind escaped to the mountain-tops. Then Bochica was 
wroth, and he drove the wicked Huythaca from the earth, 
and made her the Moon, for there had been no moon be- 
fore ; and he cleft the rocks and made the mighty cataract 
of Tequendama, to let the deluge flow away. Then, when 
the land was dry, he gave to the remnant of mankind the 
year and its periodic sacrifices, and the worship of the 
Sun. Now the people who told this myth had not for- 
gotten, what indeed we might guess without their help, 
that Bochica was himself Zuh^, the Sun, and Huythaca 
the Sun's wife, the Moon.^ 

^ Piedrahita, * Hist. Gen, de las Conquistas del Nuevo Rcyno de Granada/ 
Antwerp, 1688^ part i. lib. i. c. 3 ; Humboldt, ‘ Monumens,* pi. vi. ; J. G. 
Muller, ‘ Amcr. Urrelig.* pp. 423-30, 



Like to this in meaning, though different in fancy, is the 
civilization-myth of the Incas. Men, said this Quichua 
legend, were savages dwelling in caves like wild beasts, 
devouring wild roots and fruit and human flesh, covering 
themselves with leaves and bark or skins of animals. But 
our father the Sun took pity on them, and sent two of his 
children, Manco Ccapac and his sister-wife, Mama Occllo : 
these rose from the lake of Titicaca, and gave to the uncul- 
tured hordes law and government, marriage and moral 
order, tillage and art and science. Thus was founded the 
great Peruvian empire, where in after ages each Inca and 
his sister-wife, continuing the mighty race of Manco Ccapac 
and Mama Occllo, represented in rule and religion not only 
the first earthly royal ancestors, but the heavenly father and 
mother of whom we can see these to be personifications, 
namely, the Sun himself, and his sister-wife the Moon.^ 
Thus the nations of Bogota and Peru, remembering their 
days of former savagery, and the association of their culture 
with their national religion, embodied their traditions in 
myths of an often-recurring type, ascribing to the gods 
themselves, in human* shape, the establishment of their 
own worship. 

The 'inconstant moon ’ figures in a group of character- 
istic stories. Australian legend says that Mityan, the Moon, 
was a native cat, who fell in love with some one else's wife, 
and was driven away to wander ever since.® The Khasias 
of the Himalaya say that the Moon falls monthly in love 
with his mother-in-law, who throws ashes in his face, whence 
his spots.* Slavonic legend, following the same track, says 

1 Gardiaso dc la Vega, ‘ Commentarios Reales,* i. c. 1 5 j Prescott, ‘ Peru,* 
vol. i. p. 7 ; J. G. Miillcr, pp. 303-8, 328-39. Other Peruvian versions show 
the fundamental solar idea in different mythic shapes (Tr. of Cieza de Leon, 
tr. and ed. by C. R. Markham, Hakluyt Soc. 1864, PP* 5 ^ 1 ^** ^198, 316, 372). 
W. B. Stevenson (* Residence in S, America,* vol. i. p. 394) and Bastian 
(‘ Mensch,* vol. iii. p. 347) met with a curious perversion of the myth, in 
which Inca Manco Ccapac^ corrupted into Ingasman Cocapac^ gave rise to a 
story of an Englishman figuring in the midst of Peruvian mythology, 

* Stanbridge, * Abor. of Australia,’ in ‘ Tr. Eth. Soc.* vol. i. p. 301. 

• H. Yule, * Journ. As. Soc. Bengal,’ vol. xiii. p. 628. 



that the Moon, King of Night and husband of the Sun, 
faithlessly loved the Morning Star, wherefore he was cloven 
through in punishment, as we see him in the sky.' By a 
different train of thought, the Moon's periodic death and re- 
vival has suggested a painful contrast to the destiny of man, 
in one of the most often-repeated and characteristic myths 
of South Africa, which is thus told among the Namaqua. 
The Moon once sent the Hare to Men to give this message, 
' Like as I die and rise to life again, so you also shall die 
and rise to life again,' but the Hare went to the Men and 
said, * Like as I die and do not rise again, so you shall also 
die and not rise to life again.' Then the Hare returned 
and told the Moon what he had done, and the Moon struck 
at him with a hatchet and slit his lip, as it has remained 
ever since, and some say the Hare fled and is still fleeing, 
but others say he clawed at the Moon's face and left the 
scars that are still to be seen on it, and they also say that 
the reason why the Namaqua object to eating the hare (a 
prejudice which in fact they share with very different races) 
is because he brought to men this evil message.* It is re- 
markable that a story so closely resembling this, that it is 
difficult not to supposes both to be versions from a common 
original, is told in the distant Fiji Islands. There was a 
dispute between two gods as to how man should die : * Ra 
Vula (the Moon) contended that man should be like 
himself — disappear awhile and then live again. Ra Kalavo 
(the Rat) would not listen to this kind proposal, but said, 
“ Let man die as a rat dies." And he prevailed,' The dates 
of the versions seem to show that the presence of these 
myths among the Hottentots and Fijians, at the two 
opposite sides of the globe, is at any rate not due to 
transmission in modern times.® 

' Hanusch, * Slaw. Myth.’ p. 

• Bleek, * Reynard in S. Africa/ pp. 69-74 ; C. J. Andersson, ‘ Lake 
Ngami/ p. 328 ; see Grout, ‘Zulu-land/ p. 148 ; Arbousset and Daumas, p. 
471. As to connexion of the moon with the hare, cf. Skr. ‘ ^a^anka ; ’ and in 
Mexico, Sahagun, book vii. c. 2, in Kingsborough, vol. vii. 

* Williams, ‘ Fiji,’ vol. i. p. 205. Compare the Caroline Island myth that 



There is a very elaborate savage nature-myth of the 
generation of the Stars, which may unquestionably serve 
a clue connecting the history of two distant tribes. Th( 
rude Mintira of the Malayan Peninsula express in pla 
terms the belief in a solid firmament, ’sual in the low..r 
grades of civilization ; they say the sky is a great pot held 
over the earth by a cord, and if this cord broke, everything 
on earth would be crushed. The Moon is a woman, and 
the Sun also : the Stars are the Moon children, and the 
Sun had in old times as many. Fearing, however, that 
mankind could not bear so much brightness and heat, they 
agreed each to devour her children ; but the Moon, instead 
of eating up her stars, hid them from the Sun’s sight, who, 
believing them all devoured, ate up her ow*^ no sooner had 
she done it, than the Moon brought her ly out of their 
hiding-place. When the Sun saw them, tilled with rage 
she chased the Moon to kill her ; the chase has lasted ever 
since, and sometimes the Sun even comes near enough t( 
I ite the Moon, and that is an eclipse ; the Sun, as men may 
still see, devours his Stars at dawn, and the Moon hides 
hers all day while the Sun is near, and only brings them 
out at night when her pursuer is far away. Now among 
a tribe of North East India, the Ho of Chota-Nagpore, 
the myth reappears, obviously from the same source, but 
with a varied ending ; the Sun cleft the Moon in twain 
for her deceit, and thus cloven and growing whole again 
she remains, and her daughters with her which are the 
Stars. ^ 

From savagery up to civilization, there may be traced in 

in the beginning men only quitted life on the last day of the waning moon, 
and resuscitated as from a peaceful sleep when she reappeared ; but the evil 
spirit Erigirers inflicted a death from which there is no revival : Dc Drosses, 
* Hist, des Navig. aux Terres Australes,* vol. ii. p, 479. Also in a song of 
the Indians of California it is said, that even as the moon dies and returns 
to life, so they shall be re-born after death ; Duflot dc Mofras in Hasiian, 
‘ Rechtsvcrhaltnisse,* p. 385, see ‘ Psychologic,’ p. 54. 

^ * Joum. Ind. Archip.* vol. i. p. 284 ; vol. iv. p. 333 ; Tick ell in ' Journ. 
As. Soc.’ Bengal, vol. ix. part ii. p. 7975 Latham, * Descr. Jvih.’ vol. ii. 
p. 422. 



the mythology of the Stars a course of thought, changed 
indeed in application, yet never broken in its evident con- 
nexion from first to last. The savage sees individual stars 
s animate beings, or combines star-groups into living 
V ilestial creature^, or limbs of them, or objects connected 
with them ; while at the other extremity of the scale of 
civilization, the modem astronomer keeps up just such 
ancient fancies, turning them to account in useful survival, 
as a means of ma ping out the celestial globe. The savage 
names and stories of stars and constellations may seem at 
first but childish and purposeless fancies ; but it always 
happens in the study of the lower races, that the more 
means we have of understanding their thoughts, the more 
sense do we find in them. Tie aborigines of 

Aust' Yurree and Wanjel, who are the stars we 

call C .id Pollux, pursue Purra the Kangaroo (our 

Capella), and kill him at the the beginning of the great heat 
and the mirage is the smoke of the fire they roast him by. 
They say also that Marpean-Kurrk and Neilloan (Arcturus 
and Lyra) were the discoverers of the ant-pupas and the eggs 
of the loan-bird, and taught the aborigines to find them for 
food. Translated into the language of fact, these simple 
myths record the summer place of the stars in question, 
and the seasons of ant-pupas and loan-eggs, which seasons 
are marked by the stars who are called their discoverers.^ 
Not less transparent is the meaning in the beautiful Algon- 
quin myth of the Summer-maker. In old days eternal 
winter reigned upon the earth, till a sprightly little animal 
called the Fisher, helped by other beasts his friends, broke 
an opening through the sky into the lovely heaven-land 
beyond, let the warm winds pour forth and the summer 
descend to earth, and opened the cages of, the prisoned 
birds : but when the dwellers in heaven saw their birds let 
loose and their warm gales descending, they started in pur- 
suit, and shooting their arrows at the Fisher, hit him at 
last in his one vulnerable spot at the tip of his tail ; thus 

^ Stanbridge in ‘ Tr. Eth. Soc.* vol. i. pp. 301-3. 



he died for the good of the inhabitants of earth, and became 
the constellation that bears his name, so that still at the 
proper season men see him lying a^ he fell toward the north 
on the plains of heaven, with the fatal -arrow still sticking 
in his taiL^ Compare these savage stories with Orin pur- 
suing the Pleiad sisters who take refuge from him in the 
sea, and the maidens who wept themselves to death and 
became the starry cluster of the Hyades, whose rising and 
setting betokened rain : such mythic creatures might for 
simple significance have been invented by savages, even as 
the savage constellation-myths might have been made by 
ancient Greeks. When we consider that the Australians 
who can invent such myths, and invent them with such 
fulness of meaning, are savages who put two and one to- 
gether to make their numeral for three, we may judge how 
deep in the history of culture those conceptions lie, of 
which the relics are still represented in our star-maps by 
Castor and Pollux, Arcturus and Sirius, Bootes and Orion, 
the Argo and the Charleses Wain, the Toucan and the 
Southern Cross. Whether civilized or savage, whether 
ancient or new made after the ancient manner, such names 
are so like in character that any tribe of men might adopt 
them from any other, as American tribes are known to 
receive European names into their own skies, and as our 
constellation of the Royal Oak is said to have found its 
way, in new copies of the old Hindu treatises, into the 
company of the Seven Sages and the other ancient constel- 
lations of Brahmanic India. 

Such fancies are so fanciful, that two peoples seldom fall 
on the same name for a constellation, while, even within 
the limits of the same race, terms may differ altogether. 
Thus the stars which we call Orion^s Belt are in New 

^ Schoolcraft, • Algic Res/ vol. i. pp. 57-66. The story of the hero or 
deity invulnerable like Achilles save in one weak spot, recurs in the tales 
of the slaying of the Shining Manitu, whose scalp alone was vulnerable, and 
of the mighty Kwasind, who could be killed only by the cone of the white 
pine wounding the vulnerable place on the crown of his head (vol. i. p. 153 ; 
vol. ii. p. 163). 



Zealand either the Elbow of Maui, or they form the stem 
of the Canoe of Tamarerete, whose anchor dropped from 
the prow is the Southern Cross.^ The Great Bear is equally 
like a Wain, Orion’s Belt serves as well for Frigga's or 
Mary’s Spindle, or Jacob’s Staff. Yet sometimes natural 
correspondences occur. The seven sister Pleiades seem to 
the Australians a group of girls playing to a corroboree ; 
while the North American Indians call them the Dancers-, 
and the Lapps the Company of Virgins.* Still more 
striking is the correspondence between savages and cultured 
nations in fancies of the bright starry band that lies like a 
road across the sky. The Basutos call it the ' Way of the 
Gods ; ’ the Ojis say it is the ’ Way of Spirits,’ which 
souls go up to heaven by.* North American tribes know it 
as ‘ the Path of the Master of Life,' the ’ Path of Spirits,’ 
' the Road of Souls,’ where they travel to the land beyond 
the grave, and where their camp-fires may be seen blazing 
as brighter stars.* Such savage imaginations of the Milky 
Way fit with the Lithuanian myth of the ‘ Road of the 
Birds,’ at whose end the souls of the good, fancied as 
flitting away at death like birds, dwell free and happy.* 
That souls dwell in ’the Galaxy was a thought familiar to 
the Pythagoreans, who gave it on their master’s word that 
the souls that crowd there descend, and appear to men as 
dreams,® and to the Manichaeans whose fancy transferred 
pure souls to this ' column of light,’ whence they could 

^ Taylor, * New Zealand,* p. 363. 

* Stanbridge, l.c.j Charlevoix, vol. vi. p. 148 ; Leems, ‘ Lapland,’ in Pinker- 
ton, vol. i. p. 411. The name of the Bear occurring in North America in 
connexion with the stars of the Great and Little Bear (Charlevoix, l.c.; 
Cotton Mather in Schoolcraft, ‘ Tribes,’ vol. i. p. 284) has long been remarked 
on (Goguet, vol. i. p, 262 ; vol. ii. p. 366, but with reference to Greenland, 
see Cranz, p. 294). Sec observations on the history of the Aryan name in 
Max Muller, ‘ Lectures,’ 2nd scries, p. 361. 

* Casalis, p. 196*, Waitz, vol. ii. p. 191. 

® Long’s Exp. voi. i. p. 288 ; Schoolcraft, part i. p. 272 *, Le Jeune in ‘ Rcl. 
des Jis. de la Nouvelle France,’ 1634, p. 18 j Losklel, part i. p. 35 ; J. G. 
Muller, p. 63. 

* Hanusch, pp. 272, 407, 415. 

* Porphyr. de Antro Nympharum, 28 ; Macrob. de Somn. Scip. 1.12. 

36 o 


come down to earth and again return.* It is a fall from 
such ideas of the Galaocy to the Siamese ‘ Road of the 
White Elephant,’ the Spaniards’ ‘ Road of Santiago,’ or 
the Turkish ‘ Pilgrims’ Road,’ and a still lower fall to the 
‘ Straw Road ’ of the S3nian, the Persian, and the Turk, 
who thus compare it with their lanes littered with the 
morsels of straw that fall from the nets they carry it in.* 
But of all the fancies which have attached themselves to 
the celestial road, we at home have the quaintest. Passing 
along the short and crooked way from St. Paul’s to Cannon 
Street, one thinks to how small a remnant has shnmk the 
name of the great street of the Waetlingas, which in old 
da3rs ran from Dover through London into Wales. But 
there is a Watling Street in heaven as well as on earth, 
once familiar to Englishmen, though now almost forgotten 
even in local dialect. Chaucer thus speaks of it in his 
‘ House of Fame : ’ — 

‘ Lo there (quod he) cast up thine eye 
Sc yondir, lo, the Galaxie, 

The whiche men clepe The Milky Way, 

For it is white, and some parfay, 

Ycallin it han Watlynge strcte.** 

Turning from the mythology of the heavenly bodies, a 
glance over other districts of nature-myth will afford fresh 
evidence that such legend has its early home within the 
precincts of savage culture. It is thus with the myths of 
the Winds. The New 2 Jealanders tell how Maui can ride 
upon the other Winds or imprison them in their caves, but 
he cannot catch the West wind nor find its cave to roll a 

' Beausobre, ‘Hist, dc Manichic,* vol. ii. p. 513. 

• Bastian, ‘Oestl, Asicn,* vol. iii. p. 341; ‘Chronique de Tabari,* tr. 
Dubeux, p. 24 ; Grimm, ‘ D.M.* p. 330, &c. 

• Chaucer^ ‘ House of Fame,’ ii. 427. With reference to questions of Aryan 
mythology illustrated by the savage galaxy-myths, sec Pictet, ‘Origines,’ 
part ii. p. 582, &c. Mr. J. Jeremiah informs me that ‘Watling Street’ is 
still (1871) a name for the Milky Way in Scotland; see also his paper on 
‘Welsh names of the Milky Way,’ Philological Soc., Nov. 17, 1871. The 
corresponding name * London Road * is used in Suffolk. 



stone against the mouth, and therefore it prevails, yet 
from time to time he all but overtakes it, and hiding in 
its cave for shelter k dies away.‘ Such is the fancy in 
classic poetry of Aeolus holding the prisoned winds in his 
dungeon cave : — 

‘ Hie vasto rex Aeolus antro 
Luctantes ventos, tempestatesque sonoras 
Imperio premit, ac vinclis et carcere fraenat/* 

The myth of the Four Winds is developed among the 
native races of America with a range and vigour and beauty 
scarcely rivalled elsewhere in the mythology of the world* 
Episodes belonging to this branch of Red Indian folklore 
are collected in Schoolcraft's ' Algic Researches/ and thence 
rendered with admirable taste and sympathy, though un- 
fortunately not with proper truth to the originals, in Long- 
fellow's masterpiece, the ‘ Song of Hiawatha/ The West 
Wind Mudjekeewis is Kabeyun, Father of the Winds, 
Wabun is the East Wind, Shawondasee the South Wind, 
Kabibonokka the North Wind. But there is another 
mighty wind not belonging to the mystic quaternion, 
Manabozho the Nojth-West Wind, therefore described with 
mythic appropriateness as the unlawful child of Kabeyun. 
The fierce North Wind, Kabibnokka, in vain strives to 
force Shingebis, the lingering diver-bird, from his warm 
and happy winter-lodge ; and the lazy South Wind, Sha- 
wondasee, sighs for the maiden of the prairie with her sunny 
hair, till it turns to silvery white, and as he breathes upon 
her, the prairie dandelion has vanished.* Man naturally 
divides his horizon into four quarters, before and behind, 
right and left, and thus comes to fancy the world a square, 
and to refer the winds to its four corners. Dr. Brinton, in 
his ' Myths of the New World,' has well traced from these 
ideas the growth of legend after legend among the native 

^ Yatc, ‘ New Zealand,* p. 144, see Ellis, ‘Polyn. Res.’ vol. ii. p. 417. 

* Virg. Aeneid, i. 56; Homer, Odyss. x. i. 

• Schoolcraft, ‘Algic Res.* vol. i. p. 200 j vol, ii. pp. 122, 214; ‘Indian 

ribes,* part iii, p. 324. 



races of America, where four brother heroes, or mythic an- 
cestors or divine patrons of mankind, prove, on closer view, 
to be in personal shape the Four Winds.^ 

The Vedic hymns to the Maruts, the Storm Winds, who 
tear asunder the forest kings and make the rocks shiver, 
and assume again, after their wont, the form of new-born 
babes, the mythic feats of the child Hermes in the Homeric 
hymn, the legendary birth of Boreas from Astraios and Eos, 
Starry Heaven and Dawn, work out, on Aryan ground, 
mythic conceptions that Red Indian tale-tellers could 
understand and rival.^ The peasant who keeps up in fire- 
side talk the memory of the Wild Huntsman, Wodejager, 
the Grand Veneur of Fontainebleau, Herne the Hunter of 
Windsor Forest, has almost lost the significance of this 
grand old storm-myth. By mere force of tradition, the 
name of the ‘ Wish ' or ‘ Wush ' hounds of the Wild 
Huntsman has been preserved through the west of England ; 
the words must for ages past have lost their meaning among 
the country folk, though we may plainly recognize in them 
Woden's ancient well-known name, old German ' Wunsch/ 
As of old, the Heaven-God drives the c}ouds before him in 
raging tempest across the sky, while, safe within the cottage 
walls, the tale-teller unwittingly describes in personal 
legendary shape this same Wild Hunt of the Storm.® 

It has many a time occurred to the savage poet or philo- 
sopher to realize the thunder, or its cause, in myths of a 
Thunder-bird. Of this wondrous creature North American 
legend has much to tell. He is the bird of the great 
Manitu, as the eagle is of Zeus, or he is even the great 
Manitu himself incarnate. The Assiniboins not only know 

^ Brinton, * Myths of the New World/ ch. iii. 

* ‘ Rig-Veda/ tr. by Max Muller, vol. i. (Hymns to Maruts) ; Welcker, 

* Griech. Gottcrl.* vol. iii. p. 67 j Cox, * Mythology of Aryan Nations,* vol. ii. 
ch. V. 

* Grimm, ‘ D. M.’ pp. 126, 599, 894 ; Hunt, ‘ Pop. Rom.* ist ser. p. xix. ; 
Baring-Gould, ‘ Book of Werewolves,* p. loi ; see * Myths of the Middle 
Ages,* p. 25 ; Wuttke, ‘ Deutsche Volks aberglaube,* pp. 13, 236 ; Monnier, 

* Traditions,’ pp. 75, &c., 741, 747. 



of his existence, but have even seen him, and in the far 
north the story is told how he created the world. The 
Ahts of Vancouver’s Island talk of Tootooch, the mighty 
bird dwelling aloft and far away, the flap of whose wings 
makes the thunder (Tootah), and his tongue is the forked 
lightning. There were once four of these birds in the land, 
and they fed on whales ; but the great deity Quawteaht, 
entering into a whale, enticed one thunder-bird after ain- 
other to swoop down and seize him with his talons, when 
plunging to the bottom of the sea he drowned it. Thus 
three of them perished, but the last one spread his wings 
and flew to the distant height where he has since remained. 
The meaning of the story may probably be that thunder- 
storms come especially from one of the four quarters of 
heaven. Of such myths, perhaps that told among the 
Dacotas is the quaintest : Thunder is a large bird, they 
say : hence its velocity. The old bird begins the thunder ; 
its rumbling noise is caused by an immense quantity of 
young birds, or thunders, who continue it, hence the long 
duration of the peals. The Indian says it is the young 
birds, or thunders, Uiat do the mischief ; they are like the 
young mischievous men who will not listen to good counsel. 
The old thunder or bird is wise and good, and docs not 
kill anybody, nor do any kind of mischief. Descending 
southward to Central America, there is found mention 
of the bird Voc, the messenger of Hurakan, the Tempest- 
god (whose name has been adopted in European languages 
as huracanOy ouragan, hurricane) of the Lightning and‘ 
of the Thunder. So among Caribs, Brazilians, Hervey 
Islanders and Karens, Bechuanas and Basutos, we find 
legends of a flapping or flashing Thunder-bird, whicli 
seem simply to translate into myth the thought of thunder 
and lightning descending from the upper regions of the 
air, the home of the eagle and the vulture.^ 

I Pr. Max V. Wied, ‘ Rcisc in N. A.’ vol. i. pp. 446, 455 ; vol. ii. pp. 152, 
223 ; Sir Alex. Mackenzie, ‘ Voyages,* p. cxvii. ; Sproat, ‘ Scenes of Savage 
Life * (Vancouver’s I.), pp. 177, 213 *, Irving, * Astoria,’ vol. ii. ch. xxii. j Le 



The Heaven-god dwells in the regions of the sky, and 
thus what form could be fitter for him and for his messengers 
than the likeness of a bird ? But Jo cause the ground to 
quake beneath our feet, a being of quite different nature is 
needed, and accordingly the office of supporting the solid 
earth is given in various countries to various monstrous 
creatures, human or animal in character, who make their 
office manifest from time to time by a shake given in 
negligence or sport or anger to their burden. Wherever 
earthquakes are felt, we are likely to find a version of the 
great myth of the Earth-bearer. Thus in Polynesia the 
Tongans say that Maui upholds the earth on his prostrate 
body, and when he tries to turn over into an easier posture 
there is an earthquake, and the people shout and beat the 
ground with sticks to make him lie still. Another version 
forms part of the interesting myth lately mentioned, which 
connects the under-world whither the sun descends at night, 
with the region of subterranean volcanic fire and of earth- 
quake. The old Maui lay by his fire in the dead-land of 
Bulotu, when his grandson Maui came down by the cavern 
entrance ; the young Maui carried off the fire, they wrestled, 
the old Maui was overcome, and has la\n there bruised and 
drowsy ever since, underneath the earth, which quakes 
when he turns over in his sleep. ^ In Celebes we hear of 
the world-supporting Hog, who rubs himself against a tree, 
and then there is an earthquake.* Among the Indians of 
North America, it is said that earthquakes come of the 
movement of the great world-bearing Tortoise. Now this 
Tortoise seems but a mythic picture of the Earth itself, 

Jeunc, op. cit. 1634, p. 26; Schoolcraft, ‘Indian Tribes,’ part iii. p. 233, 
‘ Algic Res.* vol. ii. pp. 1 14-6, 199 ; Catlin, vol. ii. p. 164 ; Brasseur, ‘ Popol 
Vuh/ p. 71 and Index, ‘ Hurakan ; * J. G. Milller, ‘ Amcr. Urrel.’ pp. 222, 
271 ; Ellis, ‘ Polyn. Res.’ vol. ii. p. 417 ; Jno. Williams, * Missionary Enter- 
prise,* p. 93 ; Mason, l.c. p. 217 ; Moffat, ‘ South Africa,’ p. 338 ^ Casalis, 
‘ Basutos,’ p. 266; Callaway, ‘Religion of Amazulu,* p. 119. 

^ Mariner, ‘Tonga Is.’ vol. ii. p. 120; S. S. Farmer, ‘Tonga,’ p. 135 j 
Schirren, pp. 35-7. 

* ‘ Journ. Ind. Archip.* vol. ii. p. 837. 



and thus the story only expresses in mythic phrase the very 
fact that the earth quakes ; the meaning is but one degree 
less distinct than among the Caribs, who say when there is 
an earthquake that their Mother Earth is dancing,' Among 
the higher races of the continent, such ideas remain little 
changed in nature ; the Tlascalans said that the tired world- 
supporting deities shifting their burden to a new relay 
caused the earthquake ;* the Chibchas said it was their god 
Chibchacum moving the earth from shoulder to shoulder.* 
The myth ranges in Asia through as wide a stretch of 
culture. The Kamchadals tell of Tuil the Earthquake- 
god, who sledges below ground, and when his dog shakes 
off fleas or snow there is an earthquake Ta Ywa, the 
solar hero of the Karens, set Shie-00 beneath the earth 
to carry it, and there is an earthquake when he moves.® 
The world-bearing elephants of the Hindus, the world- 
supporting frog of the Mongol Lamas, the world-bull of the 
Moslems, the gigantic Omophore of the Manichaean cosmo- 
logy, are all creatures who carry the earth on their backs or 
heads, and shake it when they stretch or shift.* Thus in 
European mythology the Scandinavian Loki, strapped down 
with thongs of iron in his subterranean cavern, writhes 
when the overhanging serpent drops venom on him ; or 
Prometheus struggles beneath the earth to break his bonds ; 
or the Lettish Drebkuls or Poseidon the Earth-shaker 
makes the ground rock beneath men's feet.’ From 
thorough myths of imagination such as most of these, it 
may be sometimes possible to distinguish philosophic myths 
like them in form, but which appear to be attempts at 

' J. G. Miiiler, ‘ Amer. Urrclig.' pp. 6i, 122. 

* Brasseur, ‘ Mexique/ vol. iii. p. 482. 

* Pouchet, ‘ Plurality of Races/ p. 2. 

* Stellcr, ‘ Kamtschatka/ p. 267. 

® Mason, ‘ Karens/ l.c. p. 182. 

* Bell, ' Tr. in Asia,' in Pinkerton, vol. vii. p. 369 j Bastian, * Oestl. Asien,* 
vol. ii. p. 168 ; Lane, * Thousand and one Nights,' vol. i, p. 21 ; see Latham, 

* Dcscr. Eth.' vol. ii. p. 171 ; Beausobre, * Manich^e,' vol i. p. 243. 

’ Edda, * 6ylfaginning,’ 50 j Grimm, * D. M.* p. 777, &c. 



serious explanation without even a metaphor. The Japanese 
think that earthquakes are caused by huge whales creeping 
underground, having been probably led to this idea by 
finding the fossil bones which seem the remains of such 
subterranean monsters, just as we know that the Siberians 
who find in the ground the mammoth-bones and tusks 
accoimt for them as belonging to huge burrowing beasts, 
and by force of this belief, have brought themselves to think 
they can sometimes see the earth heave and sink as the 
monsters crawl below. Thus, in investigating the earth- 
quake myths of the world, it appears that two processes, 
the translation into mythic language of the phenomenon 
itself, and the crude scientific theory to account for it by a 
real moving animal underground, may result in legends of 
very striking similarity.^ 

In thus surveying the mythic wonders of heaven and 
earth, sun, moon, and stars, wind, thunder, and earthquake, 
it is possible to set out in investigation under conditions of 
actual certainty. So long as such beings as Heaven or Sun 
are consciously talked of in mythic language, the meaning 
of their legends is open to nc question, and the actions 
ascribed to them will as a rule be natural and apposite. But 
when the phenomena of nature take a more anthropomorphic 
form, and become identified with personal gods and heroes, 
and when in after times these beings, losing their first con- 
sciousness of origin, become centres round which floating 
fancies cluster, then their sense becomes obscure and cor- 
rupt, and the consistency of their earlier character must no 
longer be demanded. In fact, the unreasonable expectation 
of such consistency in nature-myths, after they have passed 
into what may be called their heroic stage, is one of the 
mythologist's most damaging errors. The present exami- 
nation of nature-myths has mostly taken them in their 
primitive and unmistakable condition, and has only been 
in some degree extended to include closely-corresponding 

^ Kaempfer, * Japan,’ in Pinkerton, vol. vii. p. 684 ; see ma/nmoth-myths 
in ‘ Early Hist, of Mankind,' p. 315. 



legends in a less easily interpretable state. It has lain 
beyond my scop>e to enter into any systematic discussion of 
the views of Grimm, Grote, Max Muller, Kuhn, Schirren, 
Cox, Breal, Daseiit, Kelly, and other mythologists. Even 
the outlines here sketched out have been purposely left 
without filling in surrounding detail which might confuse 
their shape, although this strictness has caused the neglect 
of many a tempting hint to work out episode after episode, 
by tracing their relation to the myths of far-off times and 
lands. It has rather been my object to bring prominently 
into view the nature-mythology of the lower races, that their 
clear and fresh mythic conceptions may serve as a basis in 
studying the nature-myths of the world at large. The 
evidence and interpretation here brought forward, imperfect 
as they are, seem to countenance a strong opinion as to the 
historical development of legends which describe in personal 
shape the life of nature. The state of mind to which such 
imaginative fictions belong is found in full vigour in the j 
savage condition of mankind, its growth and inheritance 
continue into the higher culture of barbarous or half-civi- 
lized nations, and at last in the civilized world its effects 
pass more and more from realized belief into fanciful, 
affected, and even artificial poetry. 


MYTHOLOGY {cotUinued). 

Philosophical Myths ; inferences become pseudo-history — Geological Myths 
— Effect of doctrine of Miracles on Mythology — Magnetic Mountain 
— Myths of relation of Apes to Men by development or degeneration 
— Ethnological import of myths of Ape-men, Men with tails, Men of 
the woods — Myths of Error, Perversion, and Exaggeration : stories of 
Giants, Dwarfs, and Monstrous Tribes of men — Fanciful explanatory 
Myths — Myths attached to legendary or historical Personages — Etymo- 
logical Myths on names of places and persons — Eponymic Myths on 
names of tribes, nations, countries, See . ; their ethnological import — 
Pragmatic Myths by realization of metaphors and ideas — Allegory — 
Beast-Fable — Conclusion. 

Although the attempt to reduce to rule and system the 
whole domain of mythology would as yet be rash and pre- 
mature, yet the piecemeal invasion of bne mythic province 
after another proves feasible and profitable. Having dis- 
cussed the theory of nature-myths, it is worth while to gain 
in other directions glimpses of the crude and child-like 
thought of mankind, not arranged in abstract doctrines, 
but embodied by mythic fancy. We shall find the result in 
masses of legends, full of interest as bearing on the early 
history of opinion, and which may be roughly classified 
under the following headings : myths philosophical or ex- 
planatory ; myths based on real descriptions misunderstood, 
exaggerated, or perverted ; myths attributing inferred 
events to legendary or historical personages ; myths based 
on realization of fanciful metaphor ; and myths made or 
adapted to convey moral or social or political instruction. 

Man's craving to know the causes at work in each event 
he witnesses, the reasons' why each state of things he sur- 




veys is such as it is and no other, is no product of high 
civilization, but a characteristic of his race down to its 
lowest stages. Among jrude savages it is already an intel- 
lectual appetite whose satisfaction claims many of the mo- 
ments not engrossed by war or sport, food or sleep. Even 
to the Botocudo or Australian, scientific speculation has its 
germ in actual experience : he has learnt to do definite acts 
that definite results may follow, to see other acts done and 
their results following in course, to make inference from the 
result back to the previous action, and to find his inference 
verified in fact. When one day he has seen a deer or a 
kangaroo leave footprints in the soft ground, and the next 
day he has found new footprints and inferred that such an 
animal made them, and has followed up the track and 
killed the game, then he knows that he has reconstructed a 
history of past events by inference from their results. But 
in the early stages of knowledge the confusion is extreme 
between actual tradition of events, and ideal reconstruction 
of them. To this day there go about the world endless 
stories told as matter of known reality, but which a critical 
examination shows to be mere inferences, often utterly illu- 
sory ones, from facts which have stimulated the invention of 
some ciirious enquirer. Thus a writer in the Asiatick Re- 
searches at the end of the i8th century relates the following 
account of the Andaman islanders, as a historical fact of 
which he had been informed ; ‘ Shortly after the Portu- 
guese had discovered the passage to India round the Cape 
of Good Hope, one of their ships, on board of which were 
a number of Mozambique negroes, was lost on the Andaman 
islands, which were till then uninhabited. The blacks re- 
mained in the island and settled it : the Europeans made a 
small shallop in which they seiiled to Pegu.’ Many readers 
must have had their interest excited by this curious story, 
but at the first touch of fact it dissolves into a philosophic 
m 5 dh, made by the easy transition from what might have 
been to what was. So far from the islands having been 
uninhabited at the time of Vasco de Gama’s voyage, their 



population of naked blacks with frizzled hair^had been de- 
scribed six hundred years earlier, and the story, which 
sounded reasonable to people puzzled by the appearance of 
a black population in the Andaman islands, is of course 
repudiated by ethnologists aware of the wide distribution 
of the negroid Papuans, really so distinct from any race of 
African negroes.^ Not long since, I met with a very perfect 
myth of this kind. In a brickfield near London, there had 
been found a number of fossil elephant bones, and soon 
afterwards a story was in circulation in the neighbourhood 
somewhat in this shape : ‘ A few years ago, one of Womb- 
well’s caravans was here, an elephant died, and they buried 
him in the field, and now the scientific gentlemen have 
found his bones, and think they have got a prae-Adamite 
elephant.’ It seemed almost cruel to spoil this ingenious 
myth by pointing out that such a prize as a living mam- 
moth was beyond the resources even of Wombwell’s me- 
nagerie. But so exactly does such a story explain the facts 
to minds not troubled with nice distinctions between ex- 
isting and extinct species of elephants, that it was on 
another occasion invented elsewhere under similar circum- 
stances. This was at Oxford, where 'Mr. Buckland found 
the story of the Wombwell’s caravan and dead elephant 
current to explain a similar find of fossil bones.* Such 
explanations of the finding of fossils are easily devised and 
used to be freely made, as when fossil bones found in the 
Alps were set down to Hannibal’s elephants, or when a 
petrified oyster-shell found near Mont Cenis set Voltaire 
reflecting on the crowd of pilgrims on their way to Rome, 
or when theologians supposed such shells on mountains to 
have been left on their slopes and summits by a rising deluge. 
Such theoretical explanations are unimpeachable in their 
philosophic spirit, until further observation may prove them 

' Hamilton in * As. Res.* vol. ii. p. 344 ; Colebrookc, ibid. vol. iv. p. 385 ; 
Earl in ‘ Journ. Ind. Archip.* vol. iii. p. 682 ; vol. iv. p. 9. See Renaudot, 
* Travels of Two Mahommedans/ in Pinkerton, vol. vii. p. 183. 

• F. Boddand, ' Curiosities of Nat. Hist.’ 3rd scries, vol. ii. p. 39. 



to be unsound. Their disastrous effect on the historic con- 
science of mankind only begins when the inference is turned 
upside down, to be told as a recorded fact. 

In this connexion brief notice may be taken of the doc- 
trine of miracles in its special bearing on mythology. The 
mythic wonder-episodes related by a savage tale-teller, the 
amazing superhuman feats of his gods and heroes, are often 
to his mind miracles in the original popular sense of the 
word, that is, they are strange and marvellous events ; but 
they are not to his mind miracles in a frequent modern 
sense of the word, that is, they are not violations or super- 
sessions of recognized laws of nature. Exceptio probat 
regulam ; to acknowledge an5rthing as an exception is to 
imply the rule it departs from ; but the savage recognizes 
neither rule nor exception. Yet a European hearer, brought 
up to use a different canon of evidence, will calmly reject 
this savage's most revered ancestral traditions, simply on 
the ground that they relate events which are impossible. 
The ordinary standards of possibility, as applied to the 
credibility of tradition, have indeed changed vastly in the 
course of culture through its savage, barbaric, and civilized 
stages. What con/sems us here is that there is an important 
department of legend which this change in public opinion, 
generally so resistless, left to a great extent unaltered. In 
the middle ages the long-accepted practice rose to its height, 
of allowing the mere assertion of supernatural influence by 
angels or devils, saints or sorcerers, to override the rules of 
evidence and the results of experience. The consequence 
was that the doctrine of miracles became as it were a bridge 
along which mythology travelled from the lower into the 
higher culture. Principles of myth-formation belonging 
properly to the mental state of the savage, were by its aid 
continued in strong action in the civilized world. Mythic 
episodes which Europeans would have rejected contemptu- 
ously if told of savage deities or heroes, only required 
to be adapted to appropriate local details, and to be set 
forth as .miracles in the life of some superhuman per- 


sonage, to obtain as of old a place of credit and honour in 

From the enormous mass of available instances in proof 
of this let us take two cases belonging .to the class of 
geological myths. The first is the well-known legend of 
St. Patrick and the serpents. It is thus given by Dr. 
Andrew Boorde in his description of Ireland and the Irish 
in Henry VIII. 's time. ' Yet in lerland is stupendyous 
thynges ; for there is neyther Pyes nor venymus wormes. 
There is no Adder, nor Snake, nor Toode, nor Lyzerd, nor 
no Euyt, nor none such lyke. I haue sene stones the whiche 
haue had the forme and shap of a snake and other venimus 
wormes. And the people of the countre sayth that suche 
stones were wormes, and they were turned into stones by the 
power of God and the prayers of saynt Patryk. And 
Englysh marchauntes of England do fetch of the erth of 
Irlonde to caste in their gardens, to kepe out and to kyll 
venimus wormes.'^ In treating this passage, the first step 
is to separate pieces of imported foreign myth, belonging 
properly not to Ireland, but to islands of the Mediterranean; 
the story of the earth of the island of Krete being fatal to 
venomous serpents is to be found in iElian,* and St. 
Honoratus clearing the snakes from his island (one of the 
Lerins opposite Cannes)* seems to take precedence of the 
Irish saint. What is left after these deductions is a philo- 
sophic myth accounting for the existence of fossil ammonites 
as being petrified snakes, to which myth a historical position 
is given by claiming it as a miracle, and ascribing it to St. 
Patrick. The second m5^h is valuable for the historical and 
geological evidence which it incidentally preserves. At 
the celebrated ruins of the temple of Jupiter Serapis at 
Pozzuoli, the ancient Puteoli, the marble columns, encircled 
half-way up by borings of lithodomi, stand to prove that the 
ground of the temple must have been formerly submerged 

^ Andrew Boorde, ‘ Introduction of Knowledge,* ed. by F. J. Fumivall, 
Early Eng. Text Soc. 1870, p. 133. 

* iElian, De Nat. Animal, v. 2, tee 8. 

* Acta Sanctorum Holland. Jan. xvi. 



many feet below the sea, and afterwards upheaved to become 
again dry land. History is remarkably silent as to the 
events demonstrated by this conclusive geological evidence; 
between the recorded •adornment of the temple by Roman 
emperors from the second to the third century, and the 
mention of its existence in ruins in the i6th century, no 
documentary information was till lately recognized. It has 
now been pointed out by Mr. Tuckett that a passage in the 
Apocryphal Acts of Peter and Paul, dating apparently more 
or less before the end of the 9th century, mentions the sub- 
sidence of the temple, ascribing it to a miracle of St. Paul. 
The legend is as follows : ‘ And when he (Paul) came out of 
Messina he sailed to Didymus, and remained there one night. 
And having sailed thence, he came to Pontiole (Puteoli) on 
the second day . And Dioscorus the shipmaster, who brought 
him to Syracuse, sympathizing with Paul because he had 
delivered his son from death, having left his own ship in 
Syracuse, accompanied him to Pontiole. And some of Peter's 
disciples having been found there, and having received Paul, 
exhorted him to stay with them. And he stayed a week in 
hiding, because of the command of Caesar (that he should 
be put to death). And all the toparchs were waiting to seize 
and kill him. But Dioscorus the shipmaster, being himself 
also bald, wearing his shipmaster's dress, and sp)eaking 
boldly, on the first day went out into the city of Pontiole. 
Thinking therefore that he was Paul, they seized him and 
beheaded him, and sent his head to Caesar. . . . And Paul, 
being in Pontiole, and having heard that Dioscorus had been 
beheaded, being grieved with great grief, gazing into the 
height of the heaven, said : " O Lord Almighty in Heaven, 
who hast appeared to me in every place whither I have gone 
on account of Thine only-begotten Word, our Lord Jesus 
Christ, this city, and bring out all who have believed 
in God and followed His w'ord." He said to them, there- 
fore, " Follow me." And going forth from Pontiole with 
those who had believed in the word of God, they came to a 
place called Baias (Baiae), and Ijoking up with their eyes, 



they all see that city called Pontiole sunk into the sea-shore 
about one fathom ; and there it is until this day, for a 
remembrance, imder the sea. . . . And those who had been 
saved out of the city of Pontiole, that had been swallowed 
up, reported to Caesar in Rome that Pontiole had been 
swallowed up with all its multitude. 

Episodes of popular myth, which are often items of the 
serious belief of the times they belong to, may serve as im- 
portant records of intellectual history. As an example 
belonging to the class of philosophical or explanatory myths, 
let us glance at an Arabian Nights' story, which at first 
sight may seem an effort of the wildest imagination, but 
which is nevertheless traceable to a scientific origin ; this is 
the story of the Magnetic Mountain. The Third Kalenter 
relates in his tale how a contrary wind drove his ships into a 
strange sea, and there, by the attraction of their nails and 
other ironwork, they were violently drawn towards a moun- 
tain of black loadstone, till at last the iron flew out to the 
mountain, and the ships went to pieces in the surf. The 
episode is older than the date when the ‘ Thousand and One 
Nights ' were edited. When, in Henry of Veldeck's 12th 
century poem, Duke Ernest and his companions sail into 
the Klebermeer, they see the rock that is called Magnes, and 
are themselves dragged in below it among ‘ many a work 
of keels,' whose masts stand like a forest.* Turning from 
tale-tellers to grave geographers and travellers who talk 
of the loadstone moimtain, we find El Kazwini, like Serapion 
before him, believing such boats as may be still seen in 
Ceylon, pegged and sewn without metal nails, to be so built 
lest the magnetic rock should attract them from their course 
at sea. This quaint notion is to be found in ' Sir John 

^ * Acts of Peter and Paul,’ trans. by A. Walker, in Ante-Nicenc Library, 
vol. xvi. p. 257; F. F. Tuckctt in ‘Nature,’ Oct. 20, 1870. See Lyell, 
‘ Principles of Geology/ ch. xxx. ; Phillips, ‘ Vesuvius,’ p. 244. 

* Lane, * Thousand and One N,’ vol. i. pp. 161, 217 ; vol. iii. p. 78 ; Hole, 
* Remarks on the Ar. N.’ p. 104 ; Heinrii^ von Veldeck, * Herzog Ernst’s 
von Bayern Erhohung, &c.’ ed, Rixner, Amberg, 1830, p. 65 ; see Ludlow, 
‘ Popular Epics of Middle Ages/ p. 221. 



Mandeville ' : ' In an isle dept Crues, ben schippes with- 
outen nayles of iren, or bonds, for the rockes of the 
adamandes ; for they ben alle fulle there aboute in that see, 
that it is marveyle to spaken of. And gif a schipp passed 
by the marches, and hadde either iren bandes or iren nayles, 
anon he sholde ben perishet. For the adamande of this 
kinde draws the iren to him ; and so wolde it draw to him 
the schipp, because of dhe iren ; that he sholde never 
departen fro it, ne never go thens.*^ Now it seems that 
accounts of the magnetic mountain have been given not only 
as belonging to the southern seas, but also to the north, 
and that men have connected with such notions the point- 
ing of the magnetic needle, as Sir Thomas Browne says, 
* ascribing thereto the cause of the needle's direction, and 
conceeving the effluxions from these mountains and rocks 
invite the lilly toward the north/® On this evidence we 
have, I think, fair ground for supposing that hypotheses of 
polar magnetic mountains were first devised to explain the 
action of the compass, and that these gave rise to stories of 
such mountains exerting what would be considered their 
proper effect on the iron of passing ships. The argument 
is clenched by the consideration that Europeans, who 
colloquially say the needle points to the north, naturally 
required their loadstone mountain in high northern latitudes 
while on the other hand it was as natural that Orientals 
should place this wondrous rock in the south, for they say 
it is to the south that the needle points. The conception of 
magnetism among peoples who had not reached the idea of 
double polarity may be gathered from the following quaint 
remarks in the 17th century cyclopaedia of the Chinese em- 
peror Kang-hi. ' I now hear the Europeans say it is towards 
the North pole that the compass turns ; the ancients said it 
was toward the South ; which have judged most rightly ? 
Since neither give any reason why, we come to no more with 
the one side than with the other. But the ancients are 

^ Sir John Maundevilc, ‘ Vofage and Travailc,’ 

® Sir Thomas Browne, * Vulgar Errours," ii. 3 



the earlier in date, and the farther I go the more I perceive 
that they understood the mechanism of nature. All move- 
ment languishes and dies in proportion as it approaches 
the north ; it is hard to believe it to be from thence that 
the movement of the magnetic needle comes. 

To suppose that theories of a relation between man and 
the lower mammalia are only a product of advanced science, 
would be an extreme mistake. Even at low levels of culture, 
men addicted to speculative philosophy have been led to 
account for the resemblance between apes and themselves by 
solutions satisfactory to their own minds, but which we must 
class as philosophic myths. Among these, stories which 
embody the thought of an upward change from ape to man, 
more or less approaching the last-century theory of develop- 
ment, are to be found side by side with others which in the 
converse way account for apes as degenerate from a previous 
human state. 

Central American mythology works out the idea that 
monkeys were once a human race.* In South-East Africa, 
Father Dos Santos remarked long since that * they hold 
that the apes were anciently men and women, and thus they 
call them in their tongue the first people.' The Zulus still 
tell the tale of an Amafeme tribe who became baboons. 
They were an idle race who did not like to dig, but wishea 
to eat at other people's houses, saying, ‘ We shall live, 
although we do not dig, if we eat the food of those who 
cultivate the soil.' So the chief of that place, of the house 
of Tusi, assembled the tribe, and they prepared food and 
went out into the wilderness. They fastened on behind them 

^ ‘ Mimoires cone. I'Hist., &c., des Chinois,* vol. iv. p. 457. Compare the 
story of the magnetic (?) horseman in * Thousand and One N.* vol. iii. p. 1 19, 
with the old Chinese mention of magnetic cars with a movablc^armed 
pointing figure, A. v. Humboldt, " Asie Centrale," vol. i. p. xl. ; Goguet, vol. 
iii. p. 184. 1(The loadstone mountain has its power from a turning brazen 
horseman on the top.) 

* Brasteur, * Popol Vuh,’ pp. 23-31. Compare this Central American 
myth of the ancient senseless mannikins who become monkeys, with a 
Pottowatomi legend in Schoolcraft, * Indian Tribes,* part i. p. 320. 



the handles of their now useless digging picks, these grew 
and became tails, hair made its appearance on their bodies, 
their foreheads became overhanging, and so they became 
baboons, who are still called ‘ Tusi’s men.’* Mr. Kingsley’s 
story of the great and famous nation of the Doasyoulikes, 
who degenerated by natural selection into gorillas, is the 
civilized counterpart of this savage myth. Or monkeys may 
be transformed aborigines, as the Mbocobis relate in South 
America : in the great conflagration of their forests a man 
and woman climbed a tree for refuge from the fiery deluge, 
but the flames singed their faces and they became apes.“ 
Among more civilized nations these fancies have graphic 
representatives in Moslem legends, of which one is as 
follows ; — There was a Jewish city which stood by a river 
full of fish, but the cunning creatures, noticing the habits of 
the citizens, ventured freely in sight on the Sabbath, though 
they carefully kept away on working-days. At last the 
temptation was too strong for the Jewish fishermen, but 
they paid dearly for a few days’ fine sport by being miracu- 
lously turned into apes as a punishment for Sabbath- 
breaking. In after times, when Solomon passed through 
the Valley of Apes, between Jerusalem and Mareb, he 
received from their descendants, monkeys living in houses 
and dressed like men, an account of their strange history.* 
So, in classic times, Jove had chastised the treacherous race 
of the Cercopes ; he took from them the use of tongues 
bom but to perjure, leaving them to bewail in hoarse cries 
their fate, transformed into the hairy apes of the Pithecus®, 
like and yet unlike the men they had been : — 

* In deforme viros animal mutavit, ut idem 
Distimiles homini possent similesque videri.’* 

1 Dos Santos, * Ethiopia Oriental,* Evora, 1609, part i. chap. ix. ; Calla- 
way, ‘Zulu Tales,* vol, i. p. 177, Sec also Burton, ‘ Footsteps in E. Afr.* 
p. 274 ; Waitz, ‘Anthropologic,* vol. ii. p. 178 (W. Afr.). 

• D*Orbigny, * L*Homme Am^ricain,* vol. ii. p. 102. 

• Weil, ‘ Bibl. Leg. der Muselmanner,* p. 267 j Lane, ‘ Thousand and One 
N.* vol. iii. p. 350 ; Burton, ‘ El Medinah, dec.* vol. ii, p. 343. 

• Ovid, ‘^Mctamm.* xiv, 89-100 j Wcl^kcr, ‘ Griechische Gottcrlehrc,* vol. 
iii. p. 108. 


Turning from degeneration to development, it is found 
that legends of the descent of human tribes from apes are 
especially applied to races despised as low and beast-like by 
some higher neighbouring people, alid the low race may 
even acknowledge the humiliating explanation. Thus the 
aboriginal features of the robber-caste of the Marawars of 
South India are the justification for their alleged descent 
from Rama*s monkeys, as for the like genealogy of the 
Kathkuri, or catechu-gatherers, which these small, dark, 
low-browed, curly-haired tribes actually themselves believe 
in. The Jaitwas of Rajputana, a tribe reckoned politically 
as Rajputs, nevertheless trace their descent from the 
monkey-god Hanuman, and confirm it by alleging that their 
princes still bear its evidence in a tail-like prolongation of 
the spine ; a tradition which has probably a real ethnolo- 
gical meaning, pointing out the Jaitwas as of non- Aryan 
race.^ Wild tribes of the Malay p>eninsula, looked down on 
as lower animals by the more warlike and civilized Malays, 
have among them traditions of their own descent from a 
pair of the * unka puteh,' or ' white monkeys,' who reared 
their young ones and seat them into the plains, and there 
they perfected so well that they and ^their descendants 
became men, but those who returned to the mountains still 
remained apes.* Thus Buddhist legend relates the origin 
of the flat-nosed, uncouth tribes of Tibet, offspring of two 
miraculous apes, transformed to people the snow-kingdom. 
Taught to till the ground, when they had grown com and 
eaten it their tails and hair gradually disappeared, they 
began to speak, became men, and clothed themselves with 
leaves. The population grew closer, the land waS more and 
more cultivated, and at last a prince of the race of Sakya, 
driven from his home in India, united their isolated tribes 
into a single kingdom.® In these traditions the develop- 

^ Campbell in ‘ Joum. As, Soc. Bengal,’ 1866, part ii. p. 132 ; Latham, 

* Descr. Eth.’ vol. ii. p. 456 ; Tod, * Annals of Rajasthan,’ vol. i. p. 1 14. 

* Bourien in * Tr. Eth. Soc.’ vol. iii. p. 73 ; sec ‘ Journ. Ind. Archip.’ vol. 
ii. p. 271. 

® Bastian, * Oestl. Asicn,’ vol. iii^p. 435 ; * Mcnsch,’ vol. iii. pp. 347, 349, 



ment from ape to man is considered to have come in suc- 
cessive generations, but the negroes are said to attain the 
result in the individual,^ by way of metempsychosis. Froebel 
speaks of negro slaves in the United States believing that 
in the next world they shall be white men and free, nor is 
there anything strange in their cherishing a hope so pre- 
valent among their kindred in West Africa. But from this 
the traveller goes on to quote another story, which, if not 
too good to be true, is a theory of upward and downward 
development, almost thorough enough for a Buddhist philo- 
sopher. He says, ‘ A German whom I met here told me 
that the blacks believe the damned among the negroes to 
become monkeys ; but if in this state they behave well, they 
are advanced to the state of a negro again, and bliss is event- 
ually possible to them, consisting in their turning white, 
becoming winged, and so on.'^ 

To understand these stories (and they are worth some 
attention for the ethnological hints they contain), it is neces- 
sary that we should discard the results of modem scientific 
zoology, and bring our minds back to a ruder condition of 
knowledge. The myths of human degener ation and develop- 
ment have much ifiore in common with the speculations of 
Lord Monboddo than with the anatomical arguments of 
Professor Huxley. On the one hand, uncivilized men de- 
liberately assign to apes an amount of human quality which 
to modem naturalists is simply ridiculous. Everyone has 
heard the story of the negroes declaring that apes really can 
speak, but judiciously hold their tongues lest they should 
be made to work ; but it is not so generally known that 
this is found as serious matter of belief in several distant 
regions — ^West Africa, Madagascar, South America, &c. — 
where monkeys or apes are found.* With this goes another 

387 j Koeppen, vol. ii. p. 44 ; J. J. Schmidt, * Vfilkcr Mittel-Asiens,' 
p. 210. 

* Froebel, ‘ Central America,’ p, 220 ; see Bosman, ‘ Guinea,* in Pinkerton, 
vol. xvi. p. 401. For other traditions of human descent from apes, see 
Farrar, ‘ Chapters on Language,* p. 45. 

* Bosman, * Guinea,* p. 440 ; Waitz, vol. ii. p. 178 5 Cauche, ‘ Relation de 

38 o mytholoqy. 

widely-spread anthropoid story, which relates how great 
apes like the gorilla and the orang-utan carry ofi women 
to their homes in the woods, mucl} as t;^e Apaches and 
Comanches qf our own time carry off to their prairies 
the women of North Mexico.^ And bn the other hand, 
popular opinion has under-estimated the man as much as it 
has over-estimated the monkey. We know how sailors and 
emigrants can look on savages as senseless, ape-like brutes, 
and how some writers on anthropology have contrived to 
make out of the moderate intellectual difference between an 
Englishman and a negro something equivalent to the im- 
mense interval between a negro and a gorilla. Thus we 
can have no difficulty in understanding how savages may 
seem mere apes to the eyes of men who hunt them like wild 
beasts in the forests, who can only hear in their language a 
sort of irrational gurgling and barking, and who fail totally 
to appreciate the real culture which better acquaintance 
always shows among the rudest tribes of man. It is well 
known that when Sanskrit legend tells of the apes who 
fought in the army of King Hanuman, it really refers to 
those aborigines of the land who were driven by the Aryan 
invaders to the hills and jungles, and whcfee descendants are 
known to us as Bhils, Kols, Sonthals, and the like, rude 
tribes such as the Hindu still speaks of as ' monkey- 
people.'* One of the most perfect identifications of the 
savage and the monkey in Hindustan is the following de- 
scription of the buntnanus, or ‘ man of the woods ' (Sanskr. 
vana=wood, fnanusha=^ma.n). * The buntnanus is an animal 
of the monkey kind. His face has a near resemblance to 

Madagascar/ p. 127; Dobrizhoffer, *Abipones/ vol. i. p. z88 ; Bastian, 
Mensch/ vol. ii. p. 44; Pouchet, * Plurality of Human Race/ p. 22. 

^ Monboddo, * Origin and Progress of Lang.’ 2nd ed. vol. i. p. 277 ; Du 
Chaillu, * Equatorial Africa/ p. 61 ; St. John, ‘Forests of Far East,’ vol. i. 
p. 17; vol. ii. p. 239. 

* Max Miiller in Bunsen, ‘ Phil. Univ. Hist.’ vol. i. p. 340 ; ‘ Journ. As. 
Soc. Bengal,’ vol. xxiv. p. 207. See Marsden in ‘ As. Res.’ vol. iv. p. 226 ; 
Fitch in Pinkerton, vol. ix. p. 415^^ Bastian, * Oestl. Asien,’ V9I. i. p, 465 ; 
vol. ii. p. 201. 



the human ; he has no tail, and walks erect. The skin of 
his body is black, and slightly covered with hair.* That 
this description really applies not to apes, but to the dark- 
skinned, non-Aryan aborigines of the land, appears further 
in the enumeration of the local dialects of Hindustan, to 
which, it is said, * may be added the jargon of the bunma- 
nus, or wild men of the woods/^ In the islands of the 
Indian Archipelago, whose tropical forests swarm both with 
high apes and low savages, the confusion between the two 
in the minds of the half-civilized inhabitants becomes almost 
inextricable. There is a well-known Hindu fable in the 
Hitopadesa, which relates as a warning to stupid imitators 
the fate of the ape who imitated the carpenter, and was 
caught in the cleft when he pulled out the wedge ; this fable 
has come to be told in Sumatra as a real story of one of the 
indigenous savages of the island.* It is to rude forest-men 
that the Malays habitually give the name of orang-utan, i.e., 
'man of the woods.' But in Borneo this term is applied 
to the miyas ape, whence we have learnt to call this creature 
the orang-utan, and the Malays themselves are known to 
givethe name in one and the sanxe district to both the savage 
and the ape.® This*term ‘ man of the woods ' extends far 
beyond Hindu and Malay limits. The Siamese talk of the 
hhon pa, ‘ men of the wood,* meaning apes the Brazil- 
ians of cauiari, or ‘ wood-men,* meaning a certain savage 
tribe.* The name of the Bosjesman, so amusingly mispro- 
nounced by Englishmen, as though it were some outlandish 
native word, is merely the Dutch equivalent for Bush-man, 

* man of the woods or bush,*® In our own language the 

^ Ayccn Akbaree, trans. by Gladwin ; ‘ Report of Ethnological Committee 
Jubbulpore Exhibition, 1866-7,’ part i. p. 3. Sec the mention of the ban- 
manusb in * Kumaon and Nepal,’ Campbell ; ‘ Ethnology of India,’ in 

* Journ. As. Soc. Bengal,’ 1866, part ii. p. 46. 

* Marsden, * Sumatra,’ p. 41. 

® Logan in * Journ. Ind. Archip.’ vol. i. p. 246 ; vol. iii. p. 490 ; Thomson, 
ibid. vol. i. p. 350 ; Crawfurd, ibid. vol. iv. p. 186. 

® Bastian, ‘ Oestl. Asien,’ vol. i. p. 123 ; vol. iii. p, 435. 

* Martius, '^thnog. Amer.’ vol. i. pp. 495, 471. 

* Its analogue is bosfesbok, ‘ bush-goat,’ the African antelope. The deri- 



" homo silvaticus * or- ‘ forest-man ' has become the ' salvage 
man ' or savage. European opinion of the native tribes 
of the New World may be judged ^of by the fact that, in 
1537, Pop® Paul III. had to make express statement that 
these Indians were really men (attendentes Indos ipsos 
utpote veros homines),^ Thus there is little cause to 
wonder at the circulation of stories of ape-men in South 
America, and at there being some indefiniteness in the local 
accounts of the selvage or ‘ savage,' that hairy wild man 
of the woods who, it is said, lives in the trees, and some- 
times carries off the native women.® The most perfect of 
these mystifications is to be found in a Portuguese manu- 
script quoted in the account of Castelnau's expedition, and 
giving, in all seriousness, the following account of the 
people called Cuatas : ' This populous nation dwells east 
of the Juruena, in the neighbourhood of the rivers San Joao 
and San Thome, advancing even to the confluence of the 
Juruena, and the Arinos. It is a very remarkable fact that 
the Indians composing it walk naturally like the quadru- 
peds, with their hands on the ground ; they have the belly, 
breast, arms, and legs covered with hair, and are of small 
stature ; they are fierce, and use theif teeth as weapons ; 
they sleep on the ground, or among the branches of trees ; 
they have no industry, nor agriculture, and live only on 
fruits, wild roots, and fish.'* The writer of this record 
shows no symptom of being aware that cuata or coata is the 
name of the large black Simia Paniscus, and that he has 
been really describing, not a tribe of Indians, but a species 
of apes. 

Various reasons may have led to the growth of another 
quaint group of legends, describing human tribes with tails 

vation of the BosjesmarC s name from his ncst^like shelter in a bush, given 
by Kolbcn and others since, is newer and far-fetched. 

^ Martius, vol. i. p. 50. 

* Humboldt and Bonpland, vol. v. p. 81 j Southey, ' Brazil,’ vol. i. p. xxx.; 
Bates, ‘ Amazons,* vol. i. p. 73 ; vol. ii. p, 204. 

* Castelnau, * Exp. dans I'Aip^. du Sud,* vol. iii. p. .118. See Martius, 
vol. i. pp. 24X, 4 J 4 , 563, 633. 



like beasts. To people who at once believe monkeys a kind 
of savages, and savages a kind of monkeys, men with tails 
are creatures coming under both definitions. Thus the 
Homo caudatus, or satyr, often appears in popular belief as 
a half-human creature, while even in old-fashioned works 
on natural history he may be found depicted on the evident 
model of an anthropoid ape. In East Africa, the imagined 
tribe of long-tailed men are also monkey-faced,^ while in 
South America the coata tapuya, or ‘ monkey-men,’ are as 
naturally described as men with tails. ^ European travellers 
have tried to rationalize the stories of tailed men which 
they meet with in Africa and the East. Thus Dr. Krapf 
points to a leather appendage worn behind from the girdle 
by the Wakamba, and remarks, ' It is no wonder that 
people say there are men with tails in the interior of 
Africa,’ and other writers have called attention to hanging 
mats or waist-cloths, fly-flappers or artificial tails worn for 
ornament, as having made their wearers liable to be mis- 
taken at a distance for tailed men.® But these apparently 
silly myths have often a real ethnological significance, 
deeper at any rate than such a trivial blunder. When an 
ethnologist meets irf any district with the story of tailed 
men, he ought to look for a despised tribe of aborigines, out- 
casts, or heretics, living near or among a dominant popula- 
tion, who look upon them as beasts, and furnish them with 
tails accordingly. Although the aboriginal Miau-tsze, or 
‘ children of the soil,’ come down from time to time into 
Canton to trade, the Chinese still firmly beheve them to 
have short tails like monkeys the half-civilized Malays 
describe the ruder forest tribes as tailed men the 
Moslem nations of Africa tell the same story of the Niam- 

^ Pcthcrick, ‘ Egypt, &c.’ p. 367, 

* Southey, * Brazil,’ vol. i. p. 685 ; Martius, vol. i. pp. 42$. 633. 

* Krapf, p. 142 j Baker, ‘ Albert Nyanza,’ vol. i. p, 83 ; St. John, vol. i. 
pp. 51, 405 ; and others. 

* Lockhart, ‘ Abor. of China,’ in * Tr. Eth. Soc.’ vol. i. p. 18 1. 

® ‘ Journ. Ind. Archip.’vol.ii. p. 358 ; voKjv. p. 374 ; Cameron, ‘ Malayan 
India,’ p. 120 ; Marsden, p- 7 ; Antonio Galvano, pp. 120, 218. 



Nam of the interior.* The outcast race of Cagots, about 
the Pyrenees, were said to be bom with tails ; and in Spain 
the mediaeval superstition still survives that the Jews have 
tails, like the devil, as they say.® In England the notion 
was turned to theological profit by being claimed as a judg- 
ment on wretches who insulted St. Augustine and St. 
Thomas of Canterbury. Home Tooke quotes thus from 
that zealous and somewhat foul-mouthed reformer. Bishop 
Bale : * Johan Capgrave and Alexander of Esseby sayth, 
that for castynge of fyshe tayles at thys Augustyne, Dorsett 
Shyre menne hadde tayles ever sdter. But Polydorus 
applieth it unto Kentish men at Stroud by Rochester, for 
cuttinge of Thomas Becket's horse's tail. Thus hath Eng- 
land in all other land a perpetuall infamy of tayles by theyr 
wrytten legendes of lyes, yet can they not well tell where 

to bestowe them truely an Englyshman 

now cannot travayle in an other land, by way of marchan- 
dyse or any other honest occupyinge, but it is most con- 
tumeliously thrown in his tethe, that al Englishmen have 
tailes.'* The story at last sank into a commonplace of 
local slander between shire and shire, and the Devonshire 
belief that Comishmen had tails lingefed at least till a few 
years ago.® Not less curious is the tradition among savage 
tribes, that the tailed state was an early or original condi- 
tion of man. In the Fiji Islands there is a legend of a tribe 
of men with tails like dogs, who perished in the great 
deluge, while the Tasmanians declared that men originally 
had tails and no knee-joints. Among the natives of Brazil, 
it is related by a Portuguese writer of about 1600, after a 
couple have been married, the father or father-in-law cuts a 
wo(^en stick with a sharp flint, imagining that by this cere- 
mony he cuts off the tails of any future grandchildren, so 

* Davis, * Carthage/ p. 230 ; Bostock and Riley’s Pliny (Bohn’s ed.}, vol. 
ii. p. 134, note. 

* Francisque-Michcl, ‘ Races Maudites/ vol. i. p. 17; ‘Argot,’ p. 349 ; 
Feman Cabsilero, ‘ La Gaviota,’ vol. i. p. 59. 

* Home Tooke, ‘ Diversions, of Purlcy,* vol, i. p. 397. 

* Baring-Gould, ‘Myths,’ p. 137. 



that they will be born tailless.^ There seems no evidence 
to connect the occasional occurrence of tail-like projections 
by malformation with the stories of tailed human tribes.* 

Anthropology, -untirmodem times, classified among its 
facts the particulars of monstrous human tribes, gigantic or 
dwarfish, mouthless or headless, one-eyed or one-legged, 
and so forth. The works of ancient geographers and natur- 
alists abound in descriptions of these strange creatures ; 
writers such as Isidore of Seville and Roger Bacon collected 
them, and sent them into fresh and wider circulation in the 
middle ages, and the popular belief of uncivilized nations 
retains them still. It was not till the real world had been 
so thoroughly explored as to leave little room in it for the 
monsters, that about the beginning of the present century 
science banished them to the ideal world of mythology. 
Having had to glance here at two of the principal species 
in this amazing semi-human menagerie, it may be worth 
while to look among the rest for more hints as to the 
sources of mythic fancy.® 

That some of the myths of giants and dwarfs are con 
nected with traditions of real indigenous or hostile tribes is 
settled beyond question by the evidence brought forward by 
Grimm, Nilsson, and Hanusch. With all the difficulty of 
analyzing the mixed nature of the dwarfs of European folk- 
lore, and judging how far they are elves, or gnomes, or such 
like nature-spirits, and how far human beings in mythic 
aspect, it is impossible not to recognize the element derived 

^ Williams, ‘ Fiji,’ vol. i. p. 252 ; Backhouse, ‘ Austr.’ p. 557 j Purchas, 
vol. iv. p. 1290 ; De Laet, ‘ Novus Orbis,’ p. 543. 

* For various other stories of tailed men, see ‘ As. Res.’ vol. iii. p. 149 ; 
^ Mem. Anthrop. Soc.’ vol. i. p. 454; ‘ Journ. Ind. Archip.’ vol. iii. p. 261, 
Ac. (Nicobar Islands); Klemm, ‘ C. G.’ vol. ii. pp. 246, 316 (Sarytschew 
Is.) ; * Letters of Columbus,’ Hakluyt Soc. p. 1 1 (Cuba), Ac., &c. 

® Details of monstrous tribes have been in past centuries specially col- 
lected in the following works : * Anthropometamorphosis : Man Trans- 
formed, or the Artificial! Changeling, &c,,’ scripsit J. B. cognomento 
Chirosophus, M.D., London, 1653 ; Calovius, ‘ Dc Thaumatanthropologia, 
vera pariter atque ficta tractatus his tori co-physicus,’ Rostock, 1685 ; J. A. 
Fabricius, * Dissertatio de hominibus orlys nostri incolis, &c.,’ Hamburg, 
1721. Only a few principal references arc here given. 


from the kindly or mischievous aborigines of the land, with 
their special language, and religion, and costume. The 
giants appear in European folklore as Stone-Age heathen, 
shy of the conquering tribes of men, loathing their agri- 
culture and the sound of their church-bells. The rude 
native's fear of the more civilized intruder in his land is 
well depicted in the tale of the giant's daughter, who 
found the boor ploughing his field and carried him home 
in her apron for a plaything — plough, and oxen, and all ; 
but her mother bade her carry them back to where she 
found them, for, said she, they are of a people that can do 
the Huns much ill. The fact of the giant tribes bearing 
such historic names as Hun or Chud is significant, and 
Slavonic men have, perhaps, not yet forgotten that the 
dwarfs talked of in their legends were descended from the 
aborigines whom the Old-Prussians found in the land. 
Beyond a doubt the old Scandinavians are describing the 
ancient and ill-used Lapp population, once so widely 
spread over Northern Europe, when their sagas tell of the 
dwarfs, stunted and ugly, dressed in reindeer kirtle and 
coloured cap, cunning aifd cowardly, shy of intercourse even 
w^ith friendly Norsemen, dwelling in caVes or in the mound- 
like Lapland ' gamm,’ armed only with arrows tipped with 
stone and bone, yet feared and hated by their conquerors 
for their fancied powers of witchcraft.^ Moslem legend 
relates that the race of Gog and Magog (Yajuj and Majuj) 
are of tiny stature, but with ears like elephants ; they are a 
numerous people, and ravaged the world ; they dwell in 
the East, separated from Persia by a high mountain, with 
but one pass ; and the nations their neighbours, when they 
heard of Alexander the Great (Dhfi '1-Karnain) traversing 
the world, paid tribute to him, and he made them a wall of 
bronze and iron, to keep in the nation of Gog and Magog.^ 

^ Grimm, * D, M.' ch. xvii. xviii. ; Nilsson, ‘ Primitive Inhabitants of 
Scandinavia,’ ch. vi. ; Hanusch, ‘ Slaw. Myth.’ pp. 230, 325-7 ; Wuttke, 
* Volksabcrgl.’ p. 231. „ 

* * Chronique de Tabari,’ tr. Dubeux, part i. ch. viii. See Koran, xviii. 92. 



Who can fail to recognize in this a mystified description 
of the Tatars of High Asia ? Professor Nilsson tries to 
account in a general way for the huge or tiny stature of 
legendary tribes, as being mere exaggeration of their actual 
largeness or smallness. We must admit that this some- 
times really happens. The accounts which European 
eye-witnesses brought home of the colossal stature of the 
Patagonians, to whose waists they declared their own heads 
reached, are enough to settle once for all the fact that 
myths of giants may arise from the sight of really tall 
men and it is so, too, with the dwarf-legends of the same 
region, as where Knivet, the old traveller, remarks of the 
little people of Rio de la Plata, that they are ‘ not so very 
little as described.** 

Nevertheless, this same group of giant and dwarf myths 
may serve as a warning not to stretch too widely a partial 
explanation, however sound within its proper limits. There 
is plenty of evidence that giant-legends are sometimes philo- 
sophic myths, made to account for the finding of great fossil 
bones. To give but a single instance of such connexion, 
certain huge jaws and teeth, found in excavating on the 
Hoe at Plymouth, were recognized as belonging to the giant 
Gogmagog, who in old times fought his last fight there 
against Corineus, the eponymic hero of Cornwall.* As to 
the dwarfs, again, stories of them are curiously associated 
with those long-enduring monuments of departed races — 
their burial-cysts and dolmens. Thus, in the United States, 
ranges of rude stone cysts, often only two or three feet long, 
are connected with the idea of a pygmy race buried in them. 
In Brittany, the dolmens are the abodes and treasuries 

^ Pigafetta in Pinkerton, vol. xi. p. 314. See Blumenbach, ‘ De Generis 
Humanse Varietate j* Fitzroy, ‘ Voy. of Adventure and Beagle/ vol. i. ; 
Waitz, ‘ Anthropologie/ vol. iii. p. 488. 

* Knivet in Purchas, vol. iv. p. 1231 ; compare Humboldt and Bonpland, 
vol. v. p. 564, with Martius, * Ethnog. Amer.* p. 424 ; see also Krapf, * East 
Africa/ p. 51 5 Du Chaillu, * Ashango-land/ p. 319- 

* * Early Hist, of Mankind,’ ch. xi. ; Hunt, * Pop. Rom.’ ist series, pp. 
18, 304. 


of the dwarfs who built them, and likewise in India it is a 
usual legend of such prehistoric burial-places, that they 
were dwarfs* houses — the dwellings of the ancient pygmies, 
who here again appear as represfentatLves of prehistoric 
tribes.^ But a very different meaning is obvious in a 
mediaeval traveller’s account of the hairy, man-like crea- 
tures of Cathay, one cubit high, and that do not bend 
their knees as they walk, or in an Arab geographer’s de- 
scription of an island people in the Indian seas, four spans 
high, naked, with red downy hair on their faces, and who 
climb up trees and shun mankind. If any one could pos- 
sibly doubt the real nature of these dwarfs, his doubt may 
be resolved by Marco Polo’s statement that in his time 
monkeys were regularly embalmed in the East Indies, and 
sold in boxes to be exhibited over the world as pygmies. ^ 
Thus various different facts have given rise to stories of 
giants and dwarfs, more than one mythic element perhaps 
combining to form a single legend — a result perplexing in 
the extreme to the mythological interpreter. 

Descriptions of strange tribes made in entire good faith 
may come to be understood in new extravagant senses, when 
carried among people not aware of the. original facts. The 
following are some interpretations of this kind, among 
which some far-fetched cases are given, to show that the 
method must not be trusted too much. The term ‘ nose- 
less ’ is apt to be misunderstood, yet it was fairly enough 
applied to flat -nosed tribes, such as Turks of the steppes, 
whom Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela thus depicts in the twelfth 
century : — ‘ They have no noses, but draw breath through 
two small holes.’* Again, among the common ornamental 

' Squier, * Abor. Monuments of N. Y.* p. 68 ; Long’s * Exp.’ vol. i. pp. 62, 
275 ; Hcrsart de Villemarqu^, ‘ Chants Populaires dc la Bretagne,’ p. liv., 
35 ; Meadows Taylor in * Journ. Eth. Soc.’ vol. i. p. 157. 

* Gul. de Rubruquis in Pinkerton, vol. vii. p. 69 ; Lane, ‘ Thousand and 
One N.’ vol. iii. pp. 81, 91, see 24, 52, 97 •, Hole, p. 63 ; Marco Polo, book 
iii. ch. xii. 

* Benjamin of Tudela, * Itinerary,’ ed. and tr. by Asher, 83 j Plin. vii. 2. 
See Max Muller in Bunsen ‘ Philos. Vniv. Hist.,* vol. i. pp. 346, 358. 



mutilations of savages is that of stretching the ears to an 
enormous size by weights or coils, and it is thus verbally 
quite true that there are men whose ears hang down upon 
their shoulders. Yet without explanation such a phrase 
would be understood to describe, not the appearance of a 
real savage with his ear-lobes stretched into pendant fleshy 
loops, but rather that of Pliny's Panotii, or of the Indian 
Karnaprdvarana, ‘ whose ears serve them for cloaks,' or of 
the African dwarfs, said to use their ears one for mattress 
and the other for coverlet when they lie down. One of the 
most extravagant of these stories is told by Fray Pedro 
Simon in California, where in fact the territory of Oregon 
has its name from the Spanish term of Orejones, or ‘ Big- 
Ears,' given to the inhabitants from their practice of 
stretching their ears with ornaments.^ Even purely meta- 
phorical descriptions, if taken in a literal sense, are capable 
of turning into catches, like the story of the horse with its 
head where its tail should be. I have been told by a 
French Protestant from the Nismes district that the epi- 
thet of got geo negro, or ‘ black-throat,' by which Catholics 
describe a Huguenot, was taken so literally that heretic 
children were sometimes forced to open their mouths to 
satisfy the orthodox of their being of the usual colour 
within. On examining the description of savage tribes by 
higher races, it appears that several of the epithets usually 
applied only need literalizing to turn into the wildest of the 
legendary monster-stories. Thus the Burmese speak of the 
rude Karens as ‘ dog-men ; ' * Marco Polo describes the 
Angaman (Andaman) islanders as brutish and savage can- 
nibals, with heads like dogs.® .Ilian's account of the dog- 
headed people of India is on the face of it an account of a 
savage race. The Kynokephali, he says, are so called from 

^ Plin. iv. 27 ; Mela, iii. 6 ; Bastian, ‘ Oestl. Asien,* vol. i. p. 120 ; vol. 
ii. p. 93 ; St. John, vol. ii. p. 117 ; Marsden, p. 53 ^ Lane, ‘ Thousand and 
One N.* vol. iii. pp. 92, 305; Pcthcrick, ‘Egypt, &c.’ p. 367; Burton, 

* Central Afr.’ vol. i. p. 235 ; Pedro Simon, ‘ Indias Occidentalcs,* p. 7. 

* Bastian, ‘ Oestl. Asien,* vol i. p. 133, 

® Marco Polo, book iii. ch. xviii. 



their bodily appearance, but otherwise they are human, and 
they go dressed in the skins of beasts ; they are just, and 
harm not men ; they cannot speak, but roar, yet they 
understand the language of the Indians ; they live by 
hunting, being swift of foot, and they cook their game not 
by fire, but by tearing it into fragments and drying it in the 
sun ; they keep goats and sheep, and drink the milk. The 
naturalist concludes by saying that he mentions these fitly 
among the irrational animals, because they have not articu- 
late, distinct, and human language.* This last suggestive 
remark well states the old prevalent notion that barbarians 
have no real language, but are ‘ speechless,’ ‘ tongueless,' 
or even mouthless.* Another monstrous people of wide 
celebrity are Pliny’s Blemmyae, said to be headless, and 
accordingly to have their mouths and eyes in their breasts ; 
creatures over whom Prester John reigned in Asia, who 
dwelt far and wide in South American forests, and who to 
our mediaeval ancestors were ais real as the cannibals with 
whom Othello couples them : — 

‘ The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads 
Do grow beneath their shoulder^’ 

If, however, we look in dictionaries for the Acephali, we 
may find not actual headless monsters, but heretics so called 
because their original head or founder was not known ; 
and when the kingless Turkoman hordes say of themselves 
‘ We are a people without a head,' the metaphor is even 
more plain and natural.* Moslem legend tells of the 

^ ^lian, iv. 46 ; Plin. vi. 35 ; vii. 2. Sec for other versions, Purchas, 
vol. iv. p. 1191 ; vol. V. p. 901 ; Cranz, p. 267 ; Lane, * Thousand and One 
Nights,’ vol. iii. pp. 36, 94, 97, 305 ; Davis, * Carthage,’ p. 230 ; Latham, 
* Descr. Eth.’ vol. ii. p. 83. 

* Plin. V. 8 ; vi. 24, 35 ; vii. 2 ; Mela, iii. 9 ; Hcrberstein in Hakluyt, 
vol. i. p. 593 ; Latham, * Descr. Eth.’ vol. i. p. 483 ; Davis, l.c. ; see ‘ Early 
Hist, of Mankind,’ p. 77. 

• Plin. V. 8 ; Lanc,-vol. i. p. 33 ; vol. ii. p. 377 ; vol. iii. p. 81 ; Eisen- 
menger, vol. ii. p. 559; Mandeville, p. 243 ; Raleigh in Hakluyt, vol. iii. 
pp. 652,665; Humboldt and Bonpland, vol. v. p. 176; Purchas, vol. iv. 
p. 1285 ; vol. v. p. 901 ; Isidot. Hispal. s.v. ‘Acephali;* Vamb^ry, p. 310, 
see p. 436. 



Shikk and the Nesnas, creatures like one half of a split 
man, with one arm, leg, and eye. Possibly it was thence 
that the Zulus got their idea of a tribe of half-men, who in 
one of their stories found a Zulu maiden in a cave and 
thought she was two people, but on closer inspection of her 
admitted, ‘ The thing is pretty ! But oh the two legs ! ' 
These realistic fancies coincide with the simple metaphor 
which describes a savage as only * half a man/ semihomOy as 
Virgil calls the ferocious Cacus.^ Again, when the Chinese 
compared themselves to the outer barbarians, they said 
* We see with two eyes, the Latins with one, and all other 
nations are blind.' Such metaphors, proverbial among 
ourselves, verbally correspond with legends of one-eyed 
tribes, such as the savage cave-dwelling Kyklopes.* Verbal 
coincidence of this kind, untrustworthy enough in these 
latter instances, passes at last into the vaguest fancy. The 
negroes called Europeans ‘ long-headed,’ using the phrase 
in our familiar metaphorical sense ; but translate it into 
Greek, and at once Hesiod's Makrokephaloi come into 
being.® And, to conclude the list, one of the commonest 
of the monster- tribes of the Old and New World is that 
distinguished by having feet turned backward. Now there 
is really a people whose name, memorable in scientific 
controversy, describes them as ' having feet the opposite 

^ Lane, vol. i. p. 33 ; Callaway, ‘Zulu Talcs,’ vol. i. pp. 199, 202. Virg, 
iEn. viii. 194 ; a similar metaphor is the name of the NimchaSy from Per- 
sian nim — half, ‘Journ. Eth. Soc.* vol. i. p. 192, cf. French demi-monde. 
Compare the * one-legged ’ tribes, Plin. vii. 2 ; Schoolcraft, ‘ Indian Tribes,* 
part iii. p. 521 ; Charlevoix, vol. i. p. 25. The Australians use the meta- 
phor ‘ of one leg * (matta gyn) to describe tribes as of one stock, G. F. 
Moore, ‘ Vocab.’ pp. 5, 71. 

* Hayton in Purchas, vol. iii. p. 108 ; see IClcmm, * C. G.’ vol. vi. p. 129 ; 
Vamb^ry, p. 49 ; Homer. Odyss. ix. ; Strabo, i. 2, 12 ; see Scherzer, * Voy. 
of Novara,* vol. ii. p. 40 ; C. J. Andersson, ‘ Lake Ngami, &c.,’ p. 453 ; Du 
Chaillu, ‘ Equatorial Africa,* p. 440 ; Sir J. Richardson, * Polar Regions,' 
p. 300. For tribes with more than two eyes, see Pliny's metaphorically 
explained Nisacsethse and Nisyti, Plin. vi. 35: also Bastian, ‘ Mensch,* 
vol. ii. p. 414 ; ‘ Oestl. Asien,’ vol. i. pp. 25, 76 ; Petherick, l.c. ; Bowen, 

‘ Yoruba Gr.’ p. xx. ; Schirren, p. 196. 

® Kolle, ‘ Vci Gr.’ p. 229; Strabo, i^ 2, 35. The artificially elongated 
skulls of real Maxpo>c^0a\ot (Hippokrates, ‘ Dc Acris,’ 14.) arc found in the 
burial-places of Kcrtch. 



way/ and they still retain that ancient name of Anti- 

Returning from this digression to the region of philo- 
sophic myth, we may examine new groups of explanatory 
stories, produced from that craving to know causes and 
reasons which ever besets mankind. When the attention 
of a man in the myth-making stage of intellect is drawn to 
any phenomenon or custom which has to him no obvious 
reason, he invents and tells a story to account for it, and 
even if he does not persuade himself that this is a real 
legend of his forefathers, the story-teller who hears it from 
him and repeats it is troubled with no such difficulty. Our 
task in dealing with such stories is made easy when the 
criterion of possibility can be brought to bear upon them. 
It has become a mere certainty to modems that asbestos is 
not really salamander's wool ; that morbid hunger is not 
really caused by a lizard or a bird in a man's stomach ; that 
a Chinese philosopher cannot really have invented the fire- 
drill by seeing a bird peck at the branches of a tree till 
sparks came. The African Wakuah account for their cattle- 
lifting proclivities by the calm assertion that Engai, that is, 
Heaven, gave all cattle to them, and so wherever there is 
any it is their call to go and seize it.* So in South America 
the fierce Mbayas declare they received from the Caracara 
a divine command to make war on all other tribes, killing 
tlie men and adopting the women and children.* But 
though it may be consistent with the notions of these 
savages to relate such explanatory legends, it is not con- 
sistent with our notions to believe them. Fortunately, too, 
the ex post facto legends are apt to come into collision with 
more authentic sources of information, or to encroach on 
the domain of valid history. It is of no use for the 
Chinese to tell their stupid story of written characters 
having been invented from the markings on a tortoise's 

* Plin, vii. X. ; Humboldt and Bonpiand, vol. v. p. 8i. 

“ Krapf, p. 359. 

* Southey, * Brazil,' vol. iii. p. 390, 



shell, for the early forms of such characters, plain and 
simple pictures of objects, have been preserved in China to 
this day. Nor can we praise anything but ingenuity in the 
West Highland legend that the Pope once laid an interdict 
on the land, but ’forgot to curse the hills, so the people 
tilled them, this story being told to account for those 
ancient traces of tillage still to be seen on the wild hill- 
sides, the so-called ‘ elf-furrows.* ^ The most embarrassing 
cases of explanatory tradition are those which are neither 
impossible enough to condemn, nor probable enough to 
receive. Ethnographers who know how world-wide is the 
practice of defacing the teeth among the lower races, and 
how it only dies gradually out in higher civilization, natu- 
rally ascribe the habit to some general reason in human 
nature, at a particular stage of development. But the mu- 
tilating tribes themselves have local legends to account for 
local customs ; thus the Penongs of Burmah and the Ba- 
toka of East Africa both break their front teeth, but the 
one tribe says its reason is not to look like apes, the other 
that it is to be like oxen and not like zebras.* Of the 
legends of tattooing, one of the oldest is that told to 
account for the 4act that while the Fijians tattoo only the 
women, their neighbours, the Tongans, tattoo only the men. 
It is related that a Tongan, on his way from Fiji to report 
to his countrymen the proper custom for them to observe, 
went on his way repeating the rule he had carefully learnt 
by heart, ‘ Tattoo the women, but not the men,* but un- 
luckily he tripped over a stump, got his lesson wrong, and 
reached Tonga repeating ' Tattoo the men, but not the 
women,’ an ordinance which they observed ever after. 
How reasonable such an explanation seemed to the Poly- 
nesian mind, may be judged from the Samoans having a 
version with different details, and applied to their own 
instead of the Tongan islands.* 

1 D. Wilson, ‘ Archaeology, &c. of Scotland,* p. 123. 

2 Bastian, ‘ Oestl. Asien,* vol. i. p. 1^8 ; Livingstone, p. 532. 

« Williams, ‘ Fiji,* p. 160 ; Seemann, ‘ Viti,’ p. 1 13 i Turner, * Polynesia,* 



All men feel how wanting in sense of reality is a story 
with no personal name to hang it to. This want is thus 
graphically expressed by Sprenger the historian in his life 
of Mohammed : ‘ It makes, on me at Ifeast, quite a different 
impression when it is related that ** the Prophet said to 
Alkama," even if I knew nothing whatever else of this 
Alkama, than if it were merely stated that he said to 
somebody.'* ' The feeling which this acute and learned 
critic thus candidly confesses, has from the earliest times, 
and in the minds of men troubled with no such nice his- 
toric conscience, germinated to the production of much 
mythic fruit. Thus it has come to pass that one of the 
leading personages to be met with in the tradition of the 
world is really no more than — Somebody. There is no- 
thing this wondrous creature cannot achieve, no shape he 
cannot put on ; one only restriction binds him at all, that 
the name he assumes shall have some sort of congruity 
with the office he undertakes, and even from this he often- 
times breaks loose. So rife in our own day is this manu- 
facture of personal history, often fitted up with details of 
place and date into the very semblance of real chronicle, 
that it may be guessed how vast its working must have been 
in days of old. Thus the ruins of ancient buildings, of 
whose real history and use no trustworthy tradition survives 
in local memory, have been easily furnished by myth with a 
builder and a purpose. In Mexico the great Somebody 
assumes the name of Montezuma, and builds the aqueduct 
of Tezcuco ; to the Persian any huge and antique ruin is 
the work of the heroic Antar; in Russia, says Dr. Bastian, 
buildings of the most various ages are set down to Peter 
the Great, as in Spain to Boabdil or Charles V. ; and 
European folklore may attribute to the Devil any old build- 
ing of unusual massiveness, and especially those stone 
structures which antiquaries now class as prae-historic 

p. 182 (a similar legend told by the Samoans). Another tattooing legend 
in Latham, ‘ Descr. Eth.* vol. i. p. 152*, Bastian, ‘ Oestl. Asien,* vol. i. 
p. 1 12. i 



monuitients. With a more graceful thought, the Indians of 
North America declare that the imitative tumuli of Ohio, 
great mounds laid out in rude imitation of animals, were 
shaped in old days by the* great Manitu himself, in promise 
of a plentiful supply of game in the world of spirits. The 
New 2fealanders tell how the hero Kupe separated the North 
and South Islands, and formed Cook’s Straits. Greek myth 
placed at the gate of the Mediterranean the twin pillars of 
Herakles ; in more recent times the opening of the Straits 
of Gibraltar became one of the many feats of Alexander of 
Macedon.^ Such a group of stories as this is no unfair test 
of the value of mere traditions of personal names which 
simply answer the questions that mankind have been asking 
for ages about the origin of their rites, laws, customs, arts. 
Some such traditions are of course genuine, and we may be 
able, especially in the more modem cases, to separate the 
real from the imaginary. But it must be distinctly laid 
down that, in the absence of corroborative evidence, every 
tradition stands suspect of mythology, if it can be made by 
the simple device of fitting some personal name to the 
purely theoretical assertion that somebody must have intro- 
duced into the world fire-making, or weapons, or ornaments, 
or games, or agriculture, or marriage, or any other of the 
elements of civilization. 

Among the various matters which have excited curiosity, 
and led to its satisfaction by explanatory myths, are local 
names. These, when the popular ear has lost their primi- 
tive significance, become in barbaric times an apt subject 
for the myth-maker to explain in his peculiar fashion. 
Thus the Tibetans declare that their lake Chomoriri was 
named from a woman (chomo) who was carried into it by the 
yak she was riding, and cried in terror ri-ri ! The Arabs 
say the founders of the city of Sennaar saw on the river 
bank a beautiful woman with teeth glittering like fire, 

^ Bastian, * Mensch/ vol. iii. pp. 167-8 ; Wilkinson in Rawlinson’s ‘ Hcro- 
-dotus,’ vol. ii. p. 79 5 Grimm, ‘ D. M.’ pp. 972-6 ; W. G. Palgrayc, * Arabia,’ 
vol. i. p. 251 ; Squier and Davis, ‘Monuments of Mississippi Valley,’ 
p. 134; Taylor, ‘ New Zealand,’ p. 258. 


whence they called the place Sinndr, i.e., ‘ tooth of fire.* 
The Arkadians derived the name of their town Trapezus 
from the table (trapeza), which Zeus overturned when the 
wolfish Lykaon served a child on it for a banquet to him.^ 
Such crude fancies in no way differ ifi nature from English 
local legends current up to recent times, such as that which 
relates how the Romans, coming in sight of where Exeter 
now stands, exclaimed in delight, * Ecce terra ! * and thus 
the city had its name. Not long ago, a curious enquirer 
wished to know from the inhabitants of Fordingbridge, or 
as the country people call it, Fardenbridge, what the origin 
of this name might be, and heard in reply that the bridge 
was thought to have been built when wages were so cheap 
that masons worked for a ' farden * a day. The Falmouth 
folks* story of Squire Pendarvis and his ale is well known, 
how his servant excused herself for selling it to the sailors, 
because, as she said, ' The penny come so quick' whence 
the place came to be called Penny comequick ; this nonsense 
being invented to account for an ancient Cornish name, 
probably Penycumgwic, * head of the creek valley.* Mythic 
fancy had fallen to a low estate when it dwindled to such 
remnants as this. * 

That personal names may pass into nouns, we, who talk 
of broughams and bluchers, cannot deny. But any such 
etymology ought to have contemporary document or some 
equally forcible proof in its favour, for this is a form of ex- 
planation taken by the most flagrant myths. David the 
painter, it is related, had a promising pupil named Chicqtte, 
the son of a fruiterer ; the lad died at eighteen, but his 
master continued to hold him up to later students as a 
model of artistic cleverness, and hence arose the now 

^ Latham, ' Descr. Eth.’ vol. i. p. 43 ; Lejcan in ‘ Rev. des Deux Monde$,' 
15 Feb. 1862, p. 856; Apollodor. iii, 8. Compare the derivation of Are- 
qutpa by the Peruvians from the words ari ! quepay= ‘yes! remain,’ 
said to have been addressed to the colonists by the Inca : Markham, 
* Quichua Gr. and Die. ; ’ also the supposed etymology of Dahomey Danh- 
bo-men= ‘on the belly of Danh,’ from the story of King Dako building 
his palace on the body of the conquered King Danh : Burton, in ‘ Tr. Eth. 
Soc.* vol. iii. p. 401. • 



familiar term of chic. Etymologists, a race not wanting 
in effrontery, have hardly ever surpassed this circumstantial 
canard ; the word chic dates at anyrate from the seventeenth 
century Another word with which similar liberty has 
been taken, is cant, Steele, in the ‘ Spectator,' says that 
some people derive it from the name of one Andrew Cant, 
a Scotch minister, who had the gift of preaching in such a 
dialect that he was understood by none but his own congre- 
gation, and not by all of them. This is, perhaps, not a 
very accurate delineation of the real Andrew Cant, who is 
mentioned in ‘ Whitelock’s Memorials,' and seems to have 
known how to speak out in very plain terms indeed. But 
at any rate he flourished about 1650, whereas the verb to 
cant was then already an old word. To cante, meaning to 
speak, is mentioned in Harman's ' List of Rogues' Words,' 
in 1566, and in 1587 Harrison says of the beggars and 
gypsies that they have devised a language among them- 
selves, which they name canting, but others ' Pedlars' 
Frenche.’* Of all etymologies ascribed to personal 
names, one of the most curious is that of the Danse Ma- 
cabre, or Dance of Death, so well known from Holbein's 
pictures. Its supposed author is thus mentioned in the 
‘ Biographie Universelle : ' ' Macaber, poete allemand, se- 
rait tout-^l-fait inconnu sans I'ouvrage qu'on a sous son 
nom.' This, it may be added, is true enough, for there 
never was such a person at all, the Danse Macabre being 
really Chorea Machabceorum, the Dance of the Maccabees, 

^ Charnock, * Verba Nominalia/ s.v. ‘ chic ; ' see Francisque-Michel, 
‘ Argot,’ s.v. 

^ ‘ Spectator,’ No. 147 ; Brand, * Pop. Ant.’ vol. iii. p. 93 ; Hottcn, * Slang 
Dictionary,’ p. 3 5 Charnock, s.v. * cant.’ As to the real etymology, that 
from the beggar’s whining chaunt is defective, for the beggar drops this 
tone exactly when he cantSy i.e., talks jargon with his fellows. If cant is 
directly from Latin cantare, it will correspond with Italian canfar^ and 
French chanteTy both used as slang words for to speak (Francisque-Michel, 
‘ Argot ’). A Keltic origin is more probable, Gaelic and Irish cainnt, caint 
= talk, language, dialect (see Wedgwood ‘ Etymological Dictionary ’). The 
Gaelic equivalents for pedlars’ French or tramps’ slang, are * Laidionn 
nan ccard,’ * cainnt cheard,’ i.e., tinkers’ Latin or jargon, or exactly 
‘ cairds’ cant.* A deeper connexion |jetwcen cainnt and cantare does not 
affect thiL 



a kind of pious pantomime of death performed in churches 
in the fifteenth century. Why the performance received 
this name, is that the rite of Mass for the dead is distin- 
guished by the reading of that passage from the twelfth 
chapter of Book II. of the Maccabees, which relates how the 
people betook themselves to prayer, and besought the Lord 
that the sin of those who had been slain among them might 
be wholly blotted out ; for if Judas had not expected that 
the slain should rise again, it had been superfluous and 
vain to pray for the dead.^ Traced to its origin, it is thus 
seen that the Danse Macabre is neither more nor less than 
the Dance of the Dead, 

It is not an unusual thing for tribes and nations to be 
known by the name of their chief, as in books of African 
travel we read of * Eyo*s people,' or * Kamrazi's people.' 
Such terms may become permanent, like the name of the 
Ostnanli Turks taken from the great Othman, or Osman. 
The notions of kinship and chieftainship may easily be com- 
bined, as where some individual Brian or Alpine may have 
given his name to a clan of O’ Briens or Mac Alpines. How 
far the tribal names of the lower races may have been 
derived from individual names of chiefs or forefathers, is 
a question on which distinct evidence is difficult to obtain. 
In Patagonia bands or subdivisions of tribes are designated 
by the names of temporary chiefs, every roving party having 
such a leader, who is sometimes even styled ‘ yank,' i.e. 
' father.’* The Zxilus and Maoris were races who paid 
great attention to the traditional genealogies of their clan- 
ancestors, who were, indeed, not only their kinsfolk but their 
gods ; and they distinctly recognize the possibility of tribes 
being named from a deceased ancestor or chief. The Kafir 
tribe of Ama-Xosa derives its name from a chief, U-Xosa;^ 
and the Maori tribes of Ngate-Wakaue and Nga-Puhi claim 

* Sec also Francisque-Michel, * Argot,* s.v. * maccabe, macchab^e *=noy6. 

* Musters, * Patagonians,* pp. 69, 184. 

* Oohne, ‘Zulu Die.' p. 417; Arbousset and Daumas, p. 269; Waiu, 
vol. ii. pp. 349, 352. 



descent from chiefs called Wakaue and Puhi.^ Around this 
nucleus of actuality, however, there gathers an enormous 
mass of fiction simulating its effects. The myth-maker, 
curious to know how many people or country gained its name, 
had only to conclude that it came from a great ancestor or 
ruler, and then the simple process of turning a national or 
local title into a personal name at once added a new gene- 
alogy to historical tradition. In some cases, the name of the 
imagined ancestor is invented in such form that the local or 
gentile name may stand as grammatically derived from it, as 
usually happens in real cases, like the derivation of CcBsarea 
from CcBsar, or of the Benedictines from Benedict. But in 
the fictitious genealogy or history of the myth-maker, the 
mere unaltered name of the nation, tribe, country, or city 
often becomes without more ado the name of the eponymic 
hero. It has to be remembered, moreover, that countries 
and nations can be personified by an imaginative process 
which has not quite lost its sense in modem speech. France 
is talked of by politicians as an individual being, with par- 
ticular opinions and habits, and may even be embodied as a 
statue or picture with suitable attributes. And if one were 
to say that Britarma has two daughters, Canada and 
Australia^ or that she has gone to keep house for a decrepit 
old aunt called India, this would be admitted as plain fact 
expressed in fantastic language. The invention of ancestries 
from eponymic heroes or name- ancestors has, however, often 
had a serious effect in corrupting historic truth, by helping 
to fill ancient annals with swarms of fictitious genealogies. 
Yet, when surveyed in a large view, the nature of the epony- 
mic fictions is patent and indisputable, and so regular are 
their forms, that we could scarcely choose more telling ex- 
amples of the consistent processes of imagination, as shown 
in the development of myths. 

The great number of the eponymic ancestors of ancient 
Greek tribes and nations makes it easy to test them by com- 
parison, and the test is a destructive one. Treat the heroic 

* ^ Shortland, * Trade, of N, Z.* p. 224. 



genealogies they belong to as traditions founded on real 
history, and they prove hopelessly independent and incom- 
patible ; but consider them as mostly local and tribal myths 
and such independence and incompatibility become their 
proper features. Mr. Grote, whose tendency is to treat all 
myths as fictions not only unexplained but unexplainable, 
here makes an exception, tracing the eponymic ancestors 
from whom Greek cit ies and tribes derived their legendary 
parentage to mere embodied local and gentile names. Thus, 
of the fifty sons of Lykaon, a whole large group consists of 
personified cities of Arkadia, such as MantinSus, Phigalos, 
Tegeatis, who, according to the simply inverting legend, are 
called founders of Mantinea, Phigalia, Tegea. The father 
of King iEakos was Zeus, his mother his own personified 
land, Mgina ; the city of Mykenai had not only an ancestress 
Mykene, but an eponymic ancestor as well, Mykineus, Long 
afterwards, medieval Europe, stimulated by the splendid 
genealogies through which Rome had attached herself to 
Greece and the Greek gods and heroes, discovered the 
secret of rivalling them in the chronicles of Geoffry of 
Monmouth and others, by claiming as founders of Paris and 
Tours the Trojans Paris andJwmws, afid connecting Fmwce 
and Britain with the Trojan war through Francus, son o^ 
Hector, and Brutus, great grandson of iEneas. A remark- 
ably perfect eponymic historical myth accounting for the 
Gypsies or Egyptians, may be found cited seriously in 
' Blackstone's Commentaries : ' when Sultan Selim con- 
quered Egypt in 1517, several of the natives refused to sub- 
mit to the Turkish yoke, and revolted under one Zinganeus, 
whence the Turks called them Zinganees, but, being at 
length surrounded and banished, they agreed to disperse in 
small parties over the world, &c., &c. It is curious to watch 
Milton's mind emerging, but not wholly emerging, from the 
state of the mediaeval chronicler. He mentions in the 
beginning of his ' History of Britain,' the ' outlandish fig- 
ment ’ of the four kings. Magus, Saron, Druis, and Bardus ; 
he has no approval for thfe giant Albion, son of Neptune, who 



subdued the island and called it after his own name ; he 
scoffs at the four sons of Japhet, called Francus, Romanus, 
Alemannus, and Britto.r But when he comes to Brutus 
and the Trojan legends of old English history, his sceptical 
courage fails him : ‘ those old and inborn names of succes- 
sive kings, never any to have bin real persons, or don in their 
lives at least som part of what so long hath bin remember'd, 
cannot be thought without too strict an incrediility.'^ 
Among ruder races of the world, asserted genealogies of 
this class may be instanced in South American tribes called 
the Amoipira and Potyuara,^ Khond clans called Baska and 
/aAso,® Turkoman hordes called Yomut,Tekke,2LnAChaudor* 
all of them professing to derive their designations from 
ancestors or chiefs who bore as individuals these very names. 
Where criticism can be brought to bear on these genealogies, 
its effect is often such as drove Brutus and his Trojans out 
of English history. When there appear in the genealogy of 
Haussa, in West Africa, plain names of towns like Kano and 
Katsena,^ it is natural to consider these towns to have been 
personified into mythic ancestors. Mexican tradition assigns 
a whole set of epon^mic ancestors or chiefs to the various 
races of the land, as Mexi the founder of Mexico, Chichi- 
mecatl the first king of the Chichimecs, and so forth, down to 
Otomitl the ancestor of the Otomis, whose very name by its 
termination betrays its Aztec invention.® The Brazilians 
account for the division of the Tupis and Guaranis, by the 
legend of two ancestral brothers, Tupi and Guarani, who 

^ On the adoption of imaginary ancestors as connected with the fiction of 
a common descent, and the important political and religious effects of these 
proceedings, see especially Grote, ‘ History of Greece,* vol. i. ; McLennan, 
* Primitive Marriage ; * Maine, ‘ Ancient Law.* Interesting details on cpony- 
mic ancestors in Pott, * Anti>Kaulen, oder Mythische Vorstdlungen vom 
Ursprunge dcr Volkcr and Sprachen.’ 

Martius, ‘ Ethnog. Amcr.’ vol. i. p. 54 5 sec p. 283. 

Macpherson, * India,’ p. 78. 

VamWry, * Central Asia,* p. 325 ; see also Latham, ‘ Descr. Eth.’ vol. i. 

. 456 (Ostyaks) 5 Gcorgi, * Rcisc im Russ, Reich,* vol, i. 242 (Tunguz). 

Barth, ‘ N. & Centr. Afr.* vol. ii. p. yri 

J. G. Muller, ‘ Amcr. L-rrelig.* p. 574. 



quarrelled and separated, each with his followers : here an 
epon5anic origin of the story is made likely by the word 
Guarani not being an old national name at all, but merely 
the designation of ‘ warriors ' given by the missionaries to 
certain tribes.^ And when such facts are considered as that 
North American clans named after animals, Beaver, Cray 
fish, and the like, account for these names by simply claim- 
ing the very creatures themselves as ancestors, Hhe tendency 
of general criticism will probably be not so much in favour 
of real forefathers and chiefs who left their names to their 
tribes, as of eponymic ancestors created by backwards 
imitation of such inheritance. 

The examination of eponymic legend, however, must by 
no means stop short at the destructive stage. In fact, when 
it has undergone the sharpest criticism, it only displays the 
more clearly a real historic value, not less perhaps than if 
all the names it records were real names of ancient chiefs. 
With all their fancies, blunders, and shortcomings, the heroic 
genealogies preserve early theories of nationality, traditions 
of migration, invasion, connexion by kindred or intercourse. 
The ethnologists of old days, borrowing the phraseology of 
myth, stated what they looked on as the actual relations of 
races, in a personifying language of which the meaning may 
still be readily interpreted. The Greek legend of the twin 
brothers Danaos and Mgyptos, founders of the nations of 
the Danaoi or Homeric Greeks and of the ^Egyptians, 
represents a distinct though weak ethnological theory. 
Their eponymic myth of Hellen, the personified race of the 
Hellenes, is another and more reasonable ethnological docu- 
ment stating kinship among four great branches of the 
Greek race : the three sons of Hellen, it relates, were 
Aiolos, Doros, and Xouthos ; the first two gave their names 
to the Malians and Dorians, the third had sons called 
Achaios and Ion, whose names passed as a heritage to the 

^Martins, vol. i. pp. 180-4; Waitz, vol. iii. p. 416. 

‘ Schoolcraft, * Indian Tribes,' part i. p. 319, part iii. p. 268, sec part ii. 
p. 49 ; Catiin, vol. ii. p. 128 ; J. G. Muller, pp. 134, 327. 



Achaioi and lonians. The belief of the Lydians, Mysians, 
and Karians as to their national kinship is well expressed 
in the genealogy in Herodotus, which traces their descent 
from the three brothers Lydos, Mysos, and Kar.^ The 
Persian legend of Feridun (Thraetaona) and his three sons, 
Irej, Tur, and Seim, distinguishes the two nationalities of 
Iranian and Turanian,\,e, Persian andTatar.* The national 
genealogy of the Afghans is worthy of remark. It runs 
thus : Melik Talut (King Saul) had two sons, Berkia and 
Irmia (Berekiah and Jeremiah), who served David ; the son 
of Berkia was Afghan, and the son of Irmia was Usbek, 
Thanks to the aquiline noses of the Afghans, and to their 
use of Biblical personal names derived from Biblical sources, 
the idea of their being descendants of the lost tribes of 
Israel found great credence among European scholars up to 
the present century.* Yet the pedigree is ethnologically 
absurd, for the whole source of the imagined cousinship of 
the Aryan A fghan and the Turanian Usbek, so distinct both 
in feature and in language, appears to be in their union by 
common Mohammedanism, while the reckless jumble of 
sham history, which derives both from a Semitic source, is 
only too characteristic of Moslem chronicle. Among the 
Tatars is found a much more reasonable national pedigree ; 
in the 13th century, William of Ruysbroek relates, as sober 
circumstantial history, that they were originally called 
Turks from Turk the eldest son of Japhet, but one of their 
princes left his dominions to his twin sons, T alar and Mongol 
which gave rise to the distinction that has ever since pre- 
vailed between these two nations. * Historically absurd, this 
legend states what appears the unimpeachable ethnological 

^ Grote, ‘ Hist, of Greece ; ’ Pausan. iii. 20 ; Diod. Sic. v. ; Apollodor. 
Bibl, i. 7, 3, vi. I, 4 ; Herodoc. i. 171. 

Max Muller in Bunsen, vol. i. p. 33S ; Tabari, part i. ch. xlv., Ixix. 

* Sir W. Jones in * As. Res,' vol. ii. p. 24 ; Vansittart, ibid. p. 67 ; see 
Campbell, in ' Joum. As. Soc. Bengal,’ 1866, part ii. p. 7. 

* Will, de Rubruquis in Pinkerton, vol. vii. p. 23 ; Gabelentz in * Zeitschr. 
fttr die Kqnde dcs Morgenlandes,’ vol.^. p. 73 ; Schmidt, ‘ Vdlker Mittcl- 
Asien,' p. 6. 


fact, that the Turks, Mongols, and Tatars are closely- 
connected branches of one national stock, and we can only 
dispute in it what seems an exorbitant claim on the part 
of the Turk to represent the head of the family, the 
ancestor of the Mongol and the T atar. Thus these epon3miic 
national genealogies, mythological in form but ethnological 
in substance, embody opinions of which we may admit or 
deny the truth or value, but which we must recognize as 
distinctly ethnological documents.^ 

It thus appears that early ethnology is habitually ex- 
pressed in a metaphorical language, in which lands and 
nations are personified, and their relations indicated by 
terms of personal kinship. This description applies to 
that important document of ancient ethnology, the table of 
nations in the loth chapter of Genesis. In some cases it is 
a problem of minute and difficult criticism to distinguish 
among its ancestral names those which are simply local or 
national designations in personal form. But to critics con- 
versant with the ethnic genealogies of other peoples, such 
as have here been quoted, simple inspection of this national 
list may suffice to show that part of its names are not names 
of real men, but of personified cities, lands, and races. 
The city Zidon (p^v) is brother to Heth (nn) the father of 
the Hittites, and next follow in p)erson the Jebusite and 
the Amorite. Among plain names of countries, Cush or 
^Ethiopia (cn^) begets Nimrod, Asshur or Assyria 
builds Nineveh, and even the dual Mizraim (onvo), the ' two 
Egypts,' usually regarded as signifying Upper and Lower 
Egypt, appears in the line of generations as a personal son 
and brother of other countries, and ancestor of populations. 
The Aryan stock is clearly recognized in personifications 
of at least two of its members, Madai (no) the Mede, 
and Javan (jv) the Ionian, And as regards the family to 
which the Israelites themselves belong, if Canaan (|W3), the 
father of Zidon (p'v), be transferred to it to represent the 

^ See also Pott, ‘ Anti-KauleD,’ pp. 19, 23 ; * Rassen,’ pp. 70^ 153 ; and 
emarks on colonization-myths in Max Muller, * Chips,’ vol. ii. p. 68. 



Phoenicians, by the side of Asshur Aram (dtk), 

Eber (lar), and the other descendants of Shem, the result 
will be mainly to arrange the Semitic stock according 
to the ordinary classification of modern comparative 

Turning now from cases where mythologic phrase serves 
as a medium for expressing philosophic opinion, let us 
quickly cross the district where fancy assumes the sem- 
blance of explanatory legend. The mediaeval schoolmen 
have been justly laughed at for their habit of translating 
plain facts into the terms of metaphysics, and then 
solemnly offering them in this scientific guise as explana- 
tions of themselves — accounting for opium making people 
sleep, by its possession of a dormitive virtue. The myth- 
maker's proceedings may in one respect be illustrated by 
comparing them with this. Half mythology is occupied, as 
many a legend cited in these chapters has shown, in shaping 
the familiar facts of daily life into imaginary histories of 
their own cause and origin, childlike answers to those world- 
old questions of whence and why, which the savage asks as 
readily as the sage. So familiar is the nature of such de- 
scription in the , dress of history, that its easier examples 
translate off-hand. When the Samoans say that ever since 
the great battle among the plantains and bananas, the 
vanquished have hung down their heads, while the victor 
stands proudly erect, ‘ who can mistake the simple metaphor 
which compares the upright and the drooping plants to a 
conqueror standing among his beaten foes ? In simile just 
as obvious lies the origin of another Polynesian legend, 
which relates the creation of the coco-nut from a man's 
head, the chestnuts from his kidneys, and the yams from 
his legs.® To draw one more example from the mythology 
of plants, how transparent is the Ojibwa fancy of that 
heavenly youth with green robe and waving feathers, whom 
for the good of men the Indian overcame and buried, and 

® Seemann, ‘ Viti,’ p. 31 1 ; Turner, * Polynesia,’ p. 252. 

• ® Ellis, * Polyn. Res.’ vol. L p. 69. 

I. — 2 D 



who sprang again from his grave as the Indian com, Mon- 
damin, the * Spirit's grain.'* The New Forest peasant 
deems that the marl he digs is still red with the blood of 
his ancient foes the Danes ; the Maori sees on the red cliffs 
of Cook's Straits the blood-stains that Kupe made when, 
mourning for the death of his daughter, he cut his forehead 
with pieces of obsidian ; in the spot where Buddha offered 
his own body to feed the starved tigress's cubs, his blood 
for ever reddened the soil and the trees and flowers. The 
modern Albanian still sees the stain of slaughter in streams 
running red with earth, as to the ancient Greek the river 
that flowed by Byblos bore down in its summer floods the 
red blood of Adonis. The Cornishman knows from the red 
filmy growth on the brook pebbles that murder has been 
done there ; John the Baptist's blood still grows in 
Germany on his day, and peasants still go out to search for 
it ; the red meal fungus is blood dropped by the flying 
Huns when they hurt their feet against the high tower- 
roofs. The traveller in India might see on the ruined walls 
of Ganga Raja the traces of the blood of the citizens spilt 
in the siege, and yet more marvellous to relate, at St. 
Denis's church in Cornwall, the blood-stains on the stones 
fell there when the saint's head was cut somewhere else.* 
Of such translations of descriptive metaphor under thin 
pretence of history, every collection of myth is crowded 
with examples, but it strengthens our judgment of the com- 
bined consistency and variety of what may be called the 
mythic language, to extract from its dictionary such a group 
as this, which in variously imaginative fashion describes 
the appearance of a blood-red stain. 

^ Schoolcraft, * Algic Res.* vol. i. p. 122 ; * Indian Tribes,* part i. p. 320, 
part ii. p. 230. 

* J. R. Wise, * The New Forest,* p. 160 ; Taylor, ‘ New Zealand,* p. 268 ; 
Max Muller, ‘ Chips,* vol. i. p. 249 ; M. A. Walker, ‘ Macedonia,* p. 192 ; 
Movers, * Phonizier,* vol. i. p. 665 ; Lucian, de Deil SyriS, 8 ; Hunt, * Pop. 
Rom.’ 2nd Series, p. 15 ; Wuttke, ‘ Volksabcrglaube,* pp. 16, 94 ; Bastian, 
* Mensch,* vol. ii. p. 59, vol. iii. p. 185 ; Buchanan, * Mysore, &c.’ in Pinker- 
ton^ vol. viii. p. 714. • 



The merest shadowy fancy or broken-down metaphor, 
when once it gains a sense of reality, may begin to be 
spoken of as an actual event. The Moslems have heard the 
very stones praise Allah* not in simile only but in fact, and 
among them the saying that a man's fate is written on his 
forehead has been materialized into a belief that it can be 
deciphered from the letter-like markings of the sutures of 
his. skull. One of the miraculous passages in the life of 
Mohammed himself is traced plausibly by Sprenger to 
such a pragmatized metaphor. The angel Gabriel, legend 
declares, opened the prophet's breast, and took a black 
clot from his heart, which he washed with Zemzem water 
and replaced; details are given of the angel's dress and 
golden basin, and Anas ibn Malik declared he had seen the 
very mark where the wound was sewn up. We may venture 
with the historian to ascribe this marvellous incident to the 
familiar metaphor that Mohammed's heart was divinely 
opened and cleansed, and indeed he does say in the Koran 
that God opened his heart.^ A single instance is enough to 
represent the same habit in Christian legend. Marco Polo 
relates how in 1225 the Khalif of Bagdad commanded the 
Christians of his dominions, under penalty of death or 
Islam, to jiistify their Scriptural text by removing a certain 
mountain. Now there was among them a shoemaker, who, 
having been tempted to excess of admiration for a woman, 
had plucked out his offending eye. This man commanded 
the mountain to remove, which it did to the terror of the 
Khalif and all his p)eople, and since then the anniversary of 
the miracle has been kept holy. The Venetian traveller, 
after the manner of mediaeval writers, records the story 
without a symptom of suspicion;* yet to our minds its 
whole origin so obviously lies in three verses of St. 
Matthew's gospel, that it is needless to quote them. To 
modem taste such wooden fictions as these aire far from 
attractive. In fact the pragmatizer is a stupid creature ; 

^ sprenger, ‘ Leben dcs Mohammad/ vol. i. pp. 78, 1 19, 162, 310. 
* Marco Polo, book i. ch. viii. 



nothing is too beautiful or too sacred to be made dull and 
vulgar by his touch, for it is through the very incapacity of 
his mind to hold an abstract idea that he is forced to 
embody it in a material incident. Yet wearisome as he 
may be, it is none the less needful to understand him, to 
acknowledge the vast influence he has had on the belief of 
mankind, and to appreciate him as representing in its 
extreme abuse that tendency to clothe every thought in a 
concrete shape, which has in all ages been a mainspring of 

Though allegory cannot maintain the large place often 
claimed for it in mythology, it has yet had too much influ- 
ence to be passed over in this survey. It is true that the 
search for allegorical explanation is a pursuit that has led 
many a zealous explorer into the quagmires of mysticism. 
Yet there are cases in which allegory is certainly used with 
histoB^al intent, as for instance in the apocryphal Book of 
Enooi, with its cows and sheep which stand for Israelites, 
and asses and wolves for Midianites and Egyptians, these 
creatures figuring in a pseudo-prophetic sketch of Old 
Testament chronicles. As for moral allegory, it is im- 
mensely plentiful in the world, although its limits are 
narrower than mythologists of past centuries have sup- 
posed. It is now reasonably thought preposterous to inter- 
pret the Greek legends as moral apologues, after the manner 
of Herakleides the philosopher, who could discern a parable 
of repentant prudence in Athene seizing Achilles when just 
about to draw his sword on Agamemnon.^ Still, such a 
mode of interpretation has thus much to justify it, that 
numbers of the fanciful myths of the world are really alle- 
gories. There is allegory in the Hesiodic myth of Pandora, 
whom Zeus sent down to men, decked with golden band 
and garland of spring flowers, fit cause of longing and the 
pangs of love, but using with a dog-like mind her gifts of 
lies and treachery and pleasant speech. Heedless of his 
wiser brother's words, the foolish Epimetheus took her ; 


1 Grote, vol. i. p. 347. 



she raised the lid of the great cask and shook out the evils 
that wander among mankind, and the diseases that by day 
and night come silently bringing ill ; she set on the lid 
again and shut hope in, that evil might be ever hopeless to 
mankind. Shifted to fit a different moral, the allegory 
remained in the later version of the tale, that the cask held 
not curses but blessings ; these were let go and lost to men ’ 
when the vessel was too curiously opened, while Hope alone 
was left behind for comfort to the luckless human race.^ 
Yet the primitive nature of such legends underlies the 
moral shape upon them. 2^us is no allegoric fiction, and 
Prometheus, unless modem mythologists judge him very 
wrongly, has a meaning far deeper than parable. Xenophon 
tells (after Prodikos) the story of Herakles choosing between 
the short and easy path of pleasure and the long and toil- 
some path of virtue,* but though the mythic hero may thus 
be made to figure in a moral apologue, an imagination so 
little in keeping with his unethic nature jars upon the 
reader's mind. 

The general relation of allegory to pure myth can hardly 
be brought more clearly into view than in a class of stories 
familiar to every cfiild, the Beast-fables. From the ordinary 
civilized point of view the allegory in such fictions seems 
fundamental, the notion of a moral lesson seems bound up 
with their very nature, yet a broader examination tends to 
prove the allegorical growth as it were parasitic on an older 
trunk of myth without moral. It is only by an effort of 
intellectual reaction that a modem writer can imitate in 
parable the beast of the old Beast-fable. No wonder, for 
the creature has become to his mind a monster, only con- 
ceivable as a caricature of man made to carry a moral lesson 
or a satire. But among savages it is not so. To their 
minds the semi-human beast is no fictitious creature, in- 
vented to preach or sneer, he is all but a reality. Beast- 
fables are not nonsense to men who ascribe to the lower 
animals a power of speech, and look on them as partaking 

' Wclcker, vol. i. p. 756. 

* Xenoph. Memorabilia, ii. i. 



of moral human nature ; to men in whose eyes any hyaena 
or wolf may probably be a man-hyaena or a werewolf ; to 
men who so utterly believe ' that the soul of our grandam 
might haply inhabit a bird ' that thej^ will really regulate 
their own diet so as to avoid eating an ancestor; to men an 
integral part of whose religion may actually be the worship 
of beasts. Such beliefs belong even now to half mankind, 
and among such the beast-stories had their first home. 
Even the Australians tell their quaint beast-tales, of the 
Rat, the Owl, and the fat Blackfellow, or of Pussy-brother 
who singed his friends* noses while they were asleep.^ 
The Kamchadals have an elaborate myth of the adventures 
of their stupid deity Kutka with the Mice who played tricks 
upon him, such as painting his face like a woman's, so that 
when he looked in the water he fell in love with himself.* 
Beast-tales abound among such races as the Polynesians 
and the North American Indians, who value in them inge- 
nuity of incident and neat adaptation of the habits and 
characters of the creatures. Thus in a legend of the Flat- 
head Indians, the Little Wolf found in Cloudland his grand- 
sires the Spiders with their grizzled hair and long crooked 
nails, and they spun balls of thread to let him down to 
earth ; when he came down and found his wife the Speckled 
Duck, whom the Old Wolf had taken from him, she fled in 
confusion, and that is why she lives and dives alone to this 
very day.* In Guinea, where beast-fable is one of the great 
staples of native conversation, the following story is told as 
a type of the tales which in this way account for peculiari- 
ties of animals. The great Engena-monkey offered his 
daughter to be bride of the champion who should perform 
the feat of drinking a whole barrel of rum. The dignified 
Elephant, the graceful Leopard, the surly Boar, tried the 
first mouthful of the fire-water, and retreated. Then the 
tiny Telinga-monkey came, who had cunningly hidden in 

^ Oldfield in * Tr. Eth. Soc.* vol. iii. p. 259. 

* Steller, * KamtscLatka,’ p. 255. 

• Wilson in * Tr. Eth. Soc.* vol. iv. p. 306. 



the long grass thousands of his fellows ; he took his first 
glass and went away, but instead of his coming back, an- 
other just like him cajne for the second, and so on till the 
barrel was emptied and Telinga walked off with the Monkey- 
king's daughter. But in the narrow path the Elephant and 
Leopard attacked him and drove him off and he took refuge 
in the highest boughs of the trees, vowing never more fo 
live on the ground and suffer such violence and injustice. 
This is why to this day the little telingas are only found in 
the highest tree-tops.^ Such stories have been collected by 
scores from savage tradition in their original state, while as 
yet no moral lesson has entered into them. Yet the easy 
and natural transition from the story into the parable is 
made among savages, perhaps without help from higher 
races. In the Hottentot Tales, side by side with the myth 
of the cunning Jackal tricking the Lion out of the best of 
the carcase, and getting the black stripe burnt on his own 
back by carrying off the Sun, there occurs the moral 
apologue of the Lion who thought himself wiser than his 
Mother, and perished by the Hunter's spear, for want of 
heed to her warning against the deadly creature whose head 
is in a line with* his breast and shoulders.* So the Zulus 
have a thorough moral apologue in the story of the hyrax, 
who did not go to fetch his tail on the day when tails were 
given out, because he did not like to be out in the rain ; he 
only asked the other animals to bring it for him, and so he 
never got it.* Among the North American legends of 
Manabozho, there is a fable quite iEsopian in its humour. 
Manabozho, transformed into a Wolf, killed a fat moose, 
and being very hungry sat down to eat. But he fell into 
great doubts as to where to begin, for, said he, if I begin at 
the head, people will laugh and say, he ate him backwards, 

1 J. L. Wilson, ‘ W. Atr: p. 382. 

* Bleek, * Reynard in S. Afr/ pp. 5, 47, 67 (these are not among the 

stories which seem recently borrowed from Europeans). See ‘ Early History 
of Mankind,* p. 10. ^ 

* Callaway, * Zulu Tales,’ vol. i. p. 355. 



but if I begin at the side they will say, he ate him sideways. 
At last he made up his mind, and was just putting a delicate 
piece into his mouth, when a tree close by creaked. Stop, 
stop ! said he to the tree, I cannot eat with such a noise, 
and in spite of his hunger he left the meat and climbed up 
to quiet the creaking, but was caught between two branches 
ahd held fast, and presently he saw a pack of wolves coming . 
Go that way ! Go that way ! he cried out, whereupon the 
wolves said, he must have something there, or he would not 
tell us to go another way. So they came on, and found the 
moose, and ate it to the bones while Manabozho looked 
wistfully on. The next heavy blast of wind opened the 
branches and let him out, and he went home thinking to 
himself, ‘ See the effect of meddling with frivolous things 
when I had certain good in my possession.'^ 

In the Old World, the moral Beast-fable was of no mean 
antiquity, but it did not at once supplant the animal-myths 
pure and simple. For ages the European mind was capable 
at once of receiving lessons of wisdom from the iEsopian 
crows and foxes, and of enjoying artistic but by no means 
edifying beast-stories of more primitive type. In fact the 
Babrius and Phaedrus collections were over thousand years 
old, when the genuine Beast-Epic reached its fullest growth 
in the incomparable * Reynard the Fox,' traceable in Jakob 
Grimm's view to an original Frankish composition of the 
I2th century, itself containing materials of far earlier date.* 
Reynard is not a didactic poem, at least if a moral hangs on 
to it here and there it is oftenest a Macchiavellian one ; 
nor is it essentially a satire, sharply as it lashes men in 
general and the clergy in particular. Its creatures are in- 
carnate qualities, the Fox of cunning, the Bear of strength, 
the Ass of dull content, the Sheep of guilelessness. The 
charm of the narrative, which every class in mediaeval 
Europe delighted in, but which we have allowed to drop 
out of all but scholars' knowledge, lies in great measure in 

^ Schoolcraft, * Algic Res.’ \o\. i, p. i6o j see pp. 43, 51. 

■ Jakob Grimm, ‘ Reinhart Fuchs,’ Introd. 



the cleverly siistained combination of the beast's nature and 
the man's. How great the influence of the Re3mard Epic 
was in the middle ages, may be judged front Reynard y Bruin, 
Chanticleer, being’ still names familiar to people who have 
no idea of their haying been originally names of the cha- 
racters in the great beast-fable. Even more remarkable 
are its traces in modem French. The donkey has its name 
of bUudet from Baudoin, Baldwin the Ass. Common French 
dictionaries do not even contain the word goupil i^pulpci), 
so effectually has the Latin name of the fox been driven out 
of use by his Frankish title in the Beast-Epic, Raginhard 
the Counsellor, Reinhart, Reynard, Renari, renard. The 
moralized apologues like iEsop's which Grimm con- 
temptuously calls * fables thinned down to mere moral 
and allegory,' ' a fourth watering of the old grapes into an 
insipid moral infusion,' are low in aesthetic quality as com- 
pared with the genuine beast-myths. Mythological critics 
will be apt to judge them after the manner of the child who 
said how convenient it was to have * Moral ' printed in 
iEsop's fables, that everybody might know what to skip. 

The want of power of abstraction which has ever had 
such disastrous effett on the beliefs of mankind, confound- 
ing myth and chronicle, and crushing the spirit of history 
under the rubbish of literalized tradition, comes very clearly 
into view in the study of parable. The state of mind of 
the deaf, dumb, and blind Laura Bridgman, so instructive 
in illustrating the mental habits of uneducated though full- 
sensed men, displays in an extreme form the difficulty such 
men have in comprehending the unreality of any story. 
She could not be made to see that arithmetical problems 
were anything but statements of concrete fact, and when 
her teacher asked her, ‘ If you can buy a barrel of cider 
for four dollars, how much can you buy for one dollar ? ' 
she replied quite simply, * I cannot give much for cider, 
because it is very sour.' » It is a surprising instance of 
this tendency to concretism, that among people so civilized 

^ Account of Laura Bridgman, p. izo. 



as the Buddhists, the most obviously moral beast-fables 
have become literal incidents of sacred history. Gautama, 
during his 550 jatakas or births, tqok the form of a frog, a 
fish, a crow, an ape, and various other animals, and so far 
were the legends of these transformations from mere myth 
to his followers, that there have been preserved as relics 
in Buddhist temples the hair, feathers, and bones of the 
creatures whose bodies the great teacher inhabited. Now 
among the incidents which happened to Buddha during 
his series of animal births, he appeared as an actor in the 
familiar fable of the Fox and the Stork, and it was he who, 
when he was a Squirrel, set an example of parental virtue 
by trying to dry up the ocean with his tail, to save his 
young ones whose nest had drifted out to sea, till his per- 
severing courage was rewarded by a miracle.^ To our 
modem minds, a moral which seems the very purpose of a 
story is evidence unfavourable to its truth as fact. But if 
even apologues of talking birds and beasts have not been 
safe from literal belief, it is clear that the most evident 
moral can have been but slight protection to parables told 
of possible and life-like men. It was not a needless pre- 
caution to state explicitly of the New lestament parables 
that they were parables, and even this guard has not availed 
entirely. Mrs. Jameson relates some curious experience in 
the following passage : — ‘ I know that I was not very 
young when I entertained no more doubt of the substantial 
existence of Lazarus and Dives than of John the Baptist 
and Herod ; when the Good Samaritan was as real a per- 
sonage as any of the Apostles ; when I was full of sincerest 
pity for those poor foolish Virgins who had forgotten to 
trim their lamps, and thought them — ^in my secret soul — 
rather hardly treated. This impression of the literal actual 
truth of the parables I have since met with in many children, 
and in the uneducated but devout hearers and readers of 

^ Bowling, ‘ Siam,’ voL i. p. 3 1 3 ; Hardy, * Manual of Budhism,* p. 98. See 
the fable of the ‘ Crow and Pitchfer,* in Plin. x. 60, and Bastian, * Mensch, 
vol. i. p. 76. 



the Bible ; and I remember that when I once tried to 
explain to a good old woman the proper meaning of the 
word parable, and that the story of the Prodigal Son was 
not a fact, she was scandalized — she was quite sure that 
Jesus would never have told anything to his disciples that 
was not true. Thus she settled the matter in her own mind, 
and I thought it best to leave it there undisturbed.' ^ Nor,‘ 
it may be added, has such realization been confined to 
the minds of the poor and ignorant. St. Lazarus, patron 
saint of lepers and their hospitals, and from whom the 
lazzarone and the lazzareiio take their name, obviously 
derives these qualities from the Lazarus of the parable. 

The proof of the force and obstinacy of the mythic faculty, 
thus given by the relapse of parable into pseudo-history, 
may conclude this dissertation on mythology. In its course 
there have been examined the processes of animating and 
personifying nature, the formation of legend by exaggera- 
tion and perversion of fact, the stiffening of metaphor by 
mistaken realization of words, the conversion of speculative 
theories and still less substantial fictions into pretended 
traditional events, the passage of myth into miracle-legend, 
the definition by name and place given to any floating 
imagination, the adaptation of mythic incident as moral 
example, and the incessant crystallization of story into 
history. The investigation of these intricate and devious 
operations has brought ever more and more broadly into 
view two principles of mythologic science. The first is that 
legend, when classified on a sufficient scale, displays a 
regularity of development which the notion of motiveless 
fancy quite fails to account for, and which must be attri- 
buted to laws of formation whereby every story, old and 
new, has arisen from its definite origin and sufficient cause. 
So uniform indeed is such development